by George A. Birmingham
By George A. Birmingham
George H. Doran Company, Copyright 1922
II. THE STRIKE
III. THE FACULTY
IV. A LUNATIC AT
V. THE BANDS OF
VI. STARTING THE
VIII. A SOUL FOR
IX. A BIRD IN
X. THE EMERALD
XI. SETTLED OUT
XII. A COMPETENT
XIII. MY NIECE
XIV. A ROYAL
XV. AUNT NELL
I. LADY BOUNTIFUL
Society in the west of Ireland is beautifully tolerant. A man may do
many things there, things frowned on elsewhere, without losing caste.
He may, for instance, drink heavily, appearing in public when plainly
intoxicated, and no one thinks much the worse of him. He may be in debt
up to the verge of bankruptcy and yet retain his position in society.
But he may not marry his cook. When old Sir Tony Corless did that, he
lost caste. He was a baronet of long descent, being, in fact, the fifth
Corless who held the title.
Castle Affey was a fine old place, one of the best houses in the
county, but people stopped going there and stopped asking Sir Tony to
dinner. They could not stand the cook.
Bridie Malone was her name before she became Lady Corless. She was
the daughter of the blacksmith in the village at the gates of Castle
Affey, and she was at least forty years younger than Sir Tony. People
shook their heads when they heard of the marriage and said that the old
gentleman must be doting.
It isn't even as if she was a reasonably good-looking girl, said
Captain Corless, pathetically. If she had been a beauty I could have
understood it, butthe poor old dad!
Captain Corless was the son of another, a very different Lady
Corless, and some day he in his turn would become Sir Tony. Meanwhile,
having suffered a disabling wound early in the war, he had secured a
pleasant and fairly well-paid post as inspector under the Irish
Government. No one, not even Captain Corless himself, knew exactly what
he inspected, but there was no uncertainty about the salary. It was
Bridie Malone was not good-looking. Captain Corless was perfectly
right about that. She was very imperfectly educated. She could sign her
name, but the writing of anything except her name was a difficulty to
her. She could read, though only if the print were large and the words
were not too long.
But she possessed certain qualities not very common in any class.
She had, for instance, quite enough common sense to save her from
posing as a great lady. Sir Tony lost caste by his marriage. Bridie
Malone did not sacrifice a single friend when she became Lady Corless.
She remained on excellent terms with her father, her six younger
sisters, and her four brothers. She remained on excellent terms with
everyone in the village.
In the big house of which she became mistress she had her
difficulties at first. The other servants, especially the butler and
the upper housemaid, resented her promotion and sought new situations.
Bridie replaced them, replaced the whole staff with relatives of her
Castle Affey was run by the Malone family. Danny, a young man who
helped his father in the forge, became butler. Sarah Malone, Susy
Malone, and Mollie Malone swept the floors, made the beds, and lit the
fires. Bridie taught them their duties and saw that they did them
thoroughly. Though she was Lady Corless, she took her meals with her
family in the servants' hall and made it her business to see that Sir
Tony was thoroughly comfortable and well-fed. The old gentleman had
never been so comfortable in his life, or better fed.
He had never been so free from worry. Bridie took over the
management of the garden and farm. She employed her own relatives.
There was an ample supply of them, for almost everyone in the village
was related to the Ma-lones. She paid good wages, but she insisted on
getting good work, and she never allowed her husband to trouble about
Old Sir Tony found life a much easier business than he had ever
found it before. He chuckled when Captain Corless, who paid an
occasional visit to Castle Affey, pitied him.
You think I'm a doddering old fool, he said, but, by gad, Tony,
the most sensible thing I ever did in my life was to marry Bridie
Ma-lone! If you're wise you'll take on your stepmother as housekeeper
here and general manager after I'm gone. Not that I'm thinking of
going. I'm seventy-two. You know that, Tony. But living as I do now,
without a single thing to bother me, I'm good for another twenty
yearsor thirty. In fact, I don't see why the deuce I should ever die
at all! It's worry and work which kill men, and I've neither one nor
It was Lady Corless' custom to spend the evenings with her husband
in the smoking-room. When he had dinedand he always dined wellhe
settled down in a large armchair with a decanter of whisky and a box of
cigars beside him.
There was always, summer and winter, a fire burning on the open
hearth. There was a good supply of newspapers and magazines, for Sir
Tony, though he lived apart from the world, liked to keep in touch with
politics and the questions of the day. Lady Corless sat opposite him on
a much less comfortable chair and knitted stockings. If there was any
news in the village, she told it to him, and he listened, for, like
many old men, he took a deep interest in his neighbour's affairs.
If there was anything important or curious in the papers, he read it
out to her. But she very seldom listened. Her strong common sense saved
her from taking any interest in the war while it lasted, the peace,
when it was discussed, or politics, which gurgle on through war and
With the care of a great house, a garden, and eighty acres of land
on her shoulders, she had no mental energy to spare for public affairs
of any kind. Between half-past ten and eleven Sir Tony went to bed. He
was an old gentleman of regular habits, and by that time the
whisky-decanter was always empty. Lady Cor-less helped him upstairs,
saw to it that his fire was burning and his pyjamas warm. She dealt
with buttons and collar-studs, which are sometimes troublesome to old
gentlemen who have drunk port at dinner and whisky afterwards. She
wound his watch for him, and left him warm and sleeping comfortably.
One evening Sir Tony read from an English paper a paragraph which
caught Lady Corless' attention. It was an account of the means by which
the Government hoped to mitigate the evils of the unemployment likely
to follow demobilisation and the closing of munition works. An
out-of-work benefit of twenty-five shillings a week struck her as a
capital thing, likely to become very popular. For the first time in her
life she became slightly interested in politics.
Sir Tony passed from that paragraph to another, which dealt with the
future of Dantzig. Lady Corless at once stopped listening to what he
read. She went on knitting her stocking; but instead of letting her
thoughts work on the problems of the eggs laid by her hens, and the
fish for Sir Tony's dinner the next day, she turned over in her mind
the astonishing news that the Government actually proposed to pay
people, and to pay them well, for not working. The thing struck her as
too good to be true, and she suspected that there must be some saving
clause, some hidden trap which would destroy the value of the whole
After she had put Sir Tony to bed she went back to the smoking-room
and opened the paper from which the news had been read. It took her
some time to find the paragraph. Her search was rendered difficult by
the fact that the editor, much interested, apparently, in a subject
called the League of Nations, had tucked this really important piece of
news into a corner of a back page. In the end, when she discovered what
she wanted, she was not much better off. The print was small. The words
were long and of a very unusual kind. Lady Corless could not satisfy
herself about their meaning. She folded the paper up and put it safely
into a drawer in the kitchen dresser before she went to bed.
Next day, rising early, as she always did, she fed her fowls and set
the morning's milk in the dairy. She got Sir Tony's breakfast ready at
nine o'clock and took it up to him. She saw to it that Danny, who was
inclined to be lazy, was in his pantry polishing silver. She made it
clear to Sarah, Susy, and Molly that she really meant the library to be
thoroughly cleaned. It was a room which was never occupied, and the
three girls saw no sense in sweeping the floor and dusting the backs of
several thousand books. But their sister was firm and they had learnt
to obey her.
Without troubling to put on a hat or to take off her working apron,
Lady Corless got on her bicycle and rode down to her father's forge.
She had in her pocket the newspaper which contained the important
Old Malone laid aside a cart-wheel to which he was fitting a new rim
and followed his daughter into the house. He was much better educated
than she was and had been for many years a keen and active politician.
He took in the meaning of the paragraph at once.
Gosh! he said. If that's trueand I'm not saying it is true;
but, if it is, it's the best yet. It's what's been wanted in Ireland
this long time.
He read the paragraph through again, slowly and carefully.
Didn't I tell you? he said, didn't I tell everyone when the
election was on, that the Sinn Feiners was the lads to do the trick for
us? Didn't I say that without we'd get a republic in Ireland the
country would do no good? And there's the proof of it.
He slapped the paper heartily with his hand. To Lady Corless, whose
mind was working rapidly, his reasoning seemed a little inconclusive.
It even struck her that an Irish republic, had such a thing really come
into being, might not have been able to offer the citizens the glorious
chance of a weekly pension of twenty-five shillings. But she was aware
that politics is a complex business in which she was not trained. She
said nothing. Her father explained his line of thought.
If them fellows over in England, he said, weren't terrible
frightened of the Sinn Feiners, would they be offering us the likes of
that to keep us quiet? Bedamn, but they would not. Nobody ever got a
penny out of an Englishman yet, without he'd frightened him first. And
it's the Sinn Feiners done that. There's the why and the wherefore of
it to you. Twenty-five shillings a week! It ought to be thirty
shillings, so it ought. But sure, twenty-five shillings is something,
and I'd be in favour of taking it, so I would. Let the people of
Ireland take it, I say, as an instalment of what's due to them, and
what they'll get in the latter end, please God!
Can you make out how a man's to get it? said Lady Corless.
Man! said old Malone. Man! No, but man and woman. There isn't a
girl in the country, let alone a boy, but what's entitled to it, and
I'd like to see the police or anyone else interfering with them getting
Will it be paid out of the post office like the Old Age Pensions?
said Lady Corless.
I don't know will it, said her father, but that way or some other
way it's bound to be paid, and all anyone has to do is to go over to
what they call the Labour Exchange, at Dunbeg, and say there's no work
for him where he lives. Then he'll get the money. It's what the young
fellow in that office is there for, is to give the money, and by damn
if he doesn't do it there'll be more heard about the matter!
Old Malone, anxious to spread the good news, left the room and
walked down to the public house at the corner of the village street.
Lady Corless went into the kitchen and found her three youngest sisters
drinking tea. They sat on low stools before the fire and had a black
teapot with a broken spout standing on the hearth at their feet. The
tea in the pot was very black and strong. Lady Corless addressed them
Katey-Ann, she said, listen to me now, and let you be listening
too, Onnie, and let Honoria stop scratching her head and attend to what
I'm saying to the whole of you. I'm taking you on up at the big house
as upper house-maid, Katey-Ann.
And what's come over Sarah, said Katey-Ann. Is she going to be
Never mind you about Sarah, said Lady Corless, but attend to me.
You're the under-housemaid, Onnie, so you are, in place of your sister
Susy, and Honoria here is kitchen-maid. If anyone comes asking you
questions that's what you are and that's what you're to say. Do you
understand me now? But mind this. I don't want you up at the house,
ne'er a one of you. You'll stay where you are and you'll do what you're
doing, looking after your father and drinking tea, the same as before,
only your wages will be paid regular to you. Where's Thady?
Thady Malone was the youngest of the family.
Since Dan became butler at Castle Affey, Thady had given his father
such help as he could at the forge. Lady Corless found him seated
beside the bellows smoking a cigarette. His red hair was a tangled
shock. His face and hands were extraordinarily dirty. He was enjoying a
leisure hour or two while his father was at the public house. To his
amazement he found himself engaged as butler and valet to Sir Tony
Corless of Castle Affey.
But you'll not be coming up to the house, said Lady Corless,
neither by day nor night. Mind that. I'd be ashamed for anyone to see
you, so I would, for if you washed your face for the Christmas it's the
last time you did it.
That afternoon, after Sir Tony's luncheon had been served, Danny,
Sarah, Susy and Molly were formally dismissed. Their insurance cards
were stamped and their wages were paid up to date. It was explained to
them at some length, with many repetitions but quite clearly, that
though dismissed they were to continue to do their work as before. The
only difference in their position was that their wages would no longer
be paid by Sir Tony. They would receive much larger wages, the almost
incredible sum of twenty-five shillings a week, from the Government.
Next day the four Malones drove over to Dunbeg and applied for
out-of-work pay at the Labour Exchange. After due inquiries and the
signing of some papers by Lady Cor-less, their claims were admitted.
Four farm labourers, two gardeners, and a groom, all cousins of Lady
Corless, were dismissed in the course of the following week. Seven
young men from the village, all of them related to Lady Corless, were
formally engaged. The insurance cards of the dismissed men were
properly stamped. They were indubitably out of work. They received
After that, the dismissal of servants, indoor and out, became a
regular feature of life at Castle Affey. On Monday morning, Lady
Corless went down to the village and dismissed everyone whom she had
engaged the week before. Her expenditure in insurance stamps was
considerable, for she thought it desirable to stamp all cards for at
least a month back. Otherwise her philanthropy did not cost her much
and she had very little trouble. The original staff went on doing the
work at Castle Affey. After three months every man and woman in the
village had passed in and out of Sir Tony's service, and everyone was
drawing unemployment pay.
The village became extremely prosperous. New hats, blouses, and
entire costumes of the most fashionable kind were to be seen in the
streets every Sunday. Large sums of money were lost and won at coursing
matches. Nearly everyone had a bicycle, and old Malone bought, second
hand, a rather dilapidated motor-car. Work of almost every kind ceased
entirely, except in the big house, and nobody got out of bed before ten
o'clock. In mere gratitude, rents of houses were paid to Sir Tony which
had not been paid for many years before.
Lady Corless finally dismissed herself. She did not, of course,
resign the position of Lady Corless. It is doubtful whether she could
have got twenty-five shillings a week if she had. The Government does
not seem to have contemplated the case of unemployed wives. What she
did was to dismiss Bridie Malone, cook at Castle Affey before her
marriage. She had been married, and therefore, technically speaking,
unemployed for nearly two years, but that did not seem to matter. She
secured the twenty-five shillings a week and only just failed to get
another five shillings which she claimed on the ground that her husband
was very old and entirely dependent on her. She felt the rejection of
this claim to be an injustice.
Captain Corless, after a long period of pleasant leisure, found
himself suddenly called on to write a report on the working of the
Unemployment-Pay Scheme in Ireland. With a view to doing his work
thoroughly he hired a motorcar and made a tour of some of the more
picturesque parts of the country. He so arranged his journeys that he
was able to stop each night at a place where there was a fairly good
hotel. He made careful inquiries everywhere, and noted facts for the
enlightenment of the Treasury, for whose benefit his report was to be
drawn up. He also made notes, in a private book, of some of the more
amusing and unexpected ways in which the scheme worked. He found
himself, in the course of his tour, close to Castle Affey, and, being a
dutiful son, called on his father.
He found old Sir Tony in a particularly good humour. He also found
matter enough to fill his private note-book.
No telling tales, Tony, now, said the old man. No reports about
Castle Affey to the Government. Do you hear me now? Unless you give me
your word of honour not to breathe what I'm going to tell you to
anybody except your friends, I won't say a word.
I promise, of course, said Captain Corless.
Your step-mother's a wonderful woman, said Sir Tony, a regular
lady bountiful, by Jove! You wouldn't believe how rich everybody round
here is now, and all through her. I give you my word, Tony, if the
whisky was to be gotwhich, of course, it isn't now-a-daysthere
isn't a man in the place need go to bed sober from one week's end to
another. They could all afford it. And it's your step-mother who put
the money into their pockets. Nobody else would have thought of it.
Look here, you've heard of this unemployment-pay business, I suppose?
I'm conducting an inquiry about it at the present moment.
Then I won't say another word, said Sir Tony. But it's a pity.
You'd have enjoyed the story.
I needn't put everything I'm told into my report, said Captain
Corless. A good deal of what I hear isn't true.
Well, then, you can just consider my story to be an invention,
said Sir Tony.
Captain Corless listened to the story. When it was finished he shook
hands with his father.
Dad, he said, I apologise to you. I saidThere's no harm in
telling you now that I said you were an old fool when you married the
blacksmith's daughter. I see now that I was wrong. You married the only
woman in Ireland who understands how to make the most of the new law.
Why, everybody else in your position is cursing this scheme as the ruin
of the country, and Lady Corless is the only one who's tumbled to the
idea of using it to make the people happy and contented. She's a great
But don't tell on us, Tony, said the old man. Honour bright, now,
My dear Dad, of course not. Anyway, they wouldn't believe me if I
II. THE STRIKE BREAKER
The train was an hour-and-a-quarter late at Finnabeg. Sir James
McClaren, alone in a first-class smoking compartment, was not
surprised. He had never travelled in Ireland before, but he held a
belief that time is very little accounted of west of the Shannon-He
looked out of the window at the rain-swept platform. It seemed to him
that every passenger except himself was leaving the train at Finnabeg.
This did not surprise him much. There was only one more station,
Dunadea, the terminus of the branch line on which Sir James was
travelling. It lay fifteen miles further on, across a desolate stretch
of bog. It was not to be supposed that many people wanted to go to
Sir James looking out of his window, noticed that the passengers who
alighted did not leave the station. They stood in groups on the
platform and talked to each other. They took no notice of the rain,
though it was very heavy.
Now and then one or two of them came to Sir James' carriage and
peered in through the window. They seemed interested in him. A tall
young priest stared at him for a long time. Two commercial travellers
joined the priest and looked at Sir James. A number of women took the
place of the priest and the commercial travellers when they went away.
Finally, the guard, the engine driver, and the station master came and
looked in through the window. They withdrew together and sat on a
barrow at the far end of the platform. They lit their pipes and
consulted together. The priest joined them and offered advice. Sir
James became a little impatient.
Half an hour passed. The engine driver, the station master, and the
guard knocked the ashes out of their pipes and walked over to Sir
James' compartment. The guard opened the door.
Is it Dunadea you're for, your honour? he said.
Yes, said Sir James. When are you going on?
The guard turned to the engine driver.
It's what I'm after telling you, he said, it's Dunadea the
It might be better for him, said the engine driver, if he was to
content himself with Finnabeg for this day at any rate.
Do you hear that, your honour? said the guard. Michael here, says
it would be better for you to stay in Finnabeg.
There's a grand hotel, so there is, said the station master, the
same that's kept by Mrs. Mulcahy, and devil the better you'll find
between this and Dublin.
Sir James looked from one man to the other in astonishment. Nowadays
the public is accustomed to large demands from railway workers, demands
for higher wages and shorter hours. But Sir James had never before
heard of an engine driver who tried to induce a passenger to get out of
his train fifteen miles short of his destination.
I insist, he said abruptly, on your taking me on to Dunadea.
It's what I told you all along, Michael, said the guard. He's a
mighty determined gentleman, so he is. I knew that the moment I set
eyes on him.
The guard was perfectly right. Sir James was a man of most
determined character. His career proved it. Before the war he had been
professor of economics in a Scottish University, lecturing to a class
of ten or twelve students for a salary of £250 a year. When peace came
he was the head of a newly-created Ministry of Strikes, controlling a
staff of a thousand or twelve hundred men and women, drawing a salary
of £2,500 a year. Only a man of immense determination can achieve such
results. He had garnered in a knighthood as he advanced. It was the
reward of signal service to the State when he held the position of
Chief Controller of Information and Statistics.
Let him not be saying afterwards that he didn't get a proper
warning, said the engine driver.
He walked towards his engine as he spoke. The guard and the station
master followed him.
I suppose now, Michael, said the guard, that you'll not be
I will not, said the engine driver. The train will do nicely
without you for as far as I'm going to take her.
Sir James did not hear either the guard's question or the driver's
answer. He did hear, with great satisfaction, what the station master
Are you right there now? the man shouted, for if you are it's
time you were starting.
He unrolled a green flag and waved it. He blew a shrill blast on his
whistle. The driver stepped into the cab of the engine and handled his
levers. The train started.
Sir James leaned back in the corner of his compartment and smiled.
The track over which he travelled was badly laid and the train advanced
by jerks and bumps. But the motion was pleasant to Sir James. Any
forward movement of that train would have been pleasant to him. Each
bump and jerk brought him a little nearer to Dunadea and therefore a
little nearer to Miss Molly Dennison. Sir James was very heartily in
love with a girl who seemed to him to be the most beautiful and the
most charming in the whole world. Next day, such was his good fortune,
he was to marry her. Under the circumstances a much weaker man than Sir
James would have withstood the engine driver and resisted the
invitation of Mrs. Mulcahy's hotel in Finnabeg. Under the circumstances
even an intellectual man of the professor type was liable to pleasant
Sir James' thoughts went back to the day, six months before, when he
had first seen Miss Molly Dennison. She had been recommended to him by
a friend as a young lady likely to make an efficient private secretary.
Sir James, who had just become Head of the Ministry of Strikes, wanted
a private secretary. He appointed Miss Dennison, and saw her for the
first time when she presented herself in his office. At that moment his
affection was born. It grew and strengthened day by day. Miss Molly's
complexion was the radiant product of the soft, wet, winds of Connaugh,
which had blown on her since her birth. Not even four years' work in
Government offices in London had dulled her cheeks. Her smile had the
fresh innocence of a child's and she possessed a curious felicity of
manner which was delightful though a little puzzling. Her view of
strikes and the important work of the Ministry was fresh and quite
unconventional. Sir James, who had all his life moved among serious and
earnest people, found Miss Molly's easy cheerfulness very fascinating.
Even portentous words like syndicalism, which rang in other people's
ears like the passing bells of our social order, moved her to airy
laughter. There were those, oldish men and slightly less oldish women,
who called her flippant. Sir James offered her his hand, his heart, his
title, and a share of his £2,500 a year. Miss Molly accepted all four,
resigned her secretaryship and went home to her father's house in
Dunadea to prepare her trousseau.
The train stopped abruptly. But even the bump and the ceasing of
noise did not fully arouse Sir James from his pleasant dreams. He
looked out of the window and satisfied himself that he had not reached
Dunadea station or indeed any other station. The rain ran down the
window glass, obscuring his view of the landscape. He was dimly aware
of a wide stretch of grey-brown bog, of drifting grey clouds and of a
single whitewashed cottage near the railway line. He lit a cigarette
and lay back again. Molly's face floated before his eyes. The sound of
Molly's voice was fresh in his memory. He thought of the next day and
the return journey across the bog with Molly by his side.
At the end of half an hour he awoke to the fact that the train was
still at rest. He looked out again and saw nothing except the rain, the
bog, and the cottage. This time he opened the window and put out his
head. He looked up the line and down it. There was no one to be seen.
The signals, thought Sir James, must be against us. He looked
again, first out of one window, then out of the other. There was no
signal in sight. The single line of railway ran unbroken across the
bog, behind the train and in front of it. Sir James, puzzled, and a
little wet, drew back into his compartment and shut the window. He
waited, with rapidly growing impatience, for another half hour. Nothing
happened. Then he saw a man come out of the cottage near the line. He
was carrying a basket in one hand and a teapot in the other. He
approached the train. He came straight to Sir James' compartment and
opened the door. Sir James recognised the engine driver.
I was thinking, said the man, that maybe your honour would be
glad of a cup of tea and a bit of bread. I am sorry there is no butter,
but, sure, butter is hard to come by these times.
He laid the teapot on the floor and put the basket on the seat in
front of Sir James. He unpacked it, taking out a loaf of home made
bread, a teacup, a small bottle of milk, and a paper full of sugar.
It's not much to be offering a gentleman like yourself, he said,
but it's the best we have, and seeing that you'll be here all night
and best part of to-morrow you'll be wanting something to eat.
Sir James gasped with astonishment.
Here all night! he said. Why should we be here all night? Has the
engine broken down?
It has not, said the driver.
Then you must go on, said Sir James. I insist on your going on at
The driver poured out a cup of tea and handed it to Sir James. Then
he sat down and began to talk in a friendly way.
Sure, I can't go on, he said, when I'm out on strike.
Sir James was so startled that he upset a good deal of tea. As Head
of the Ministry of Strikes he naturally had great experience, but he
had never before heard of a solitary engine driver going on strike in
the middle of a bog.
The way of it is this, the driver went on. It was giv out, by
them that does be managing things that there was to be a general strike
on the first of next month. You might have heard of that, for it was in
all the papers.
Sir James had heard of it. It was the subject of many notes and
reports in his Ministry.
But this isn't the 1st of next month, he said.
It is not, said the driver. It's no more than the 15th of this
month. But the way I'm placed at present, it wouldn't be near so
convenient to me to be striking next month as it is to be striking now.
There's talk of moving me off this line and putting me on to the engine
that does be running into Athlone with the night mail; and it's
to-morrow the change is to be made. Now I needn't tell you that
Athlone's a mighty long way from where we are this minute.
He paused and looked at Sir James with an intelligent smile.
My wife lives in the little house beyond there, he said pointing
out of the window to the cottage. And what I said to myself was this:
If I am to be strikingwhich I've no great wish to dobut if it must
beand seemingly it mustI may as well do it in the convenientest
place I can; for as long as a man strikes the way he's told, there
can't be a word said to him; and anyway the 1st of next month or the
15th of this month, what's the differ? Isn't one day as good as
He evidently felt that his explanation was sufficient and
satisfactory. He rose to his feet and opened the door of the
compartment. I'm sorry now, he said, if I'm causing any
inconvenience to a gentleman like yourself. But what can I do? I
offered to leave you behind at Finnabeg, but you wouldn't stay. Anyway
the night's warm and if you stretch yourself on the seat there you
won't know it till morning, and then I'll bring you over another cup of
tea so as you won't be hungry. It's a twenty-four hour strike, so it
is; and I won't be moving on out of this before two o'clock or may be
half past. But what odds? The kind of place Dunadea is, a day or two
doesn't matter one way or another, and if it was the day after
to-morrow in place of to-morrow you got there it would be the same
thing in the latter end.
He climbed out of the compartment as he spoke and stumped back
through the rain to his cottage. Sir James was left wondering how the
people of Dunadea managed to conduct the business of life when one day
was the same to them as another and the loss of a day now and then did
not matter. He was quite certain that the loss of a day mattered a
great deal to him, his position being what it was. He wondered what
Miss Molly Dennison would think when he failed to appear at her
father's house that evening for dinner; what she would thinkthe
speculation nearly drove him madwhen he did not appear in the church
next day. He put on an overcoat, took an umbrella and set off for the
engine driver's cottage. He had to climb down a steep embankment and
then cross a wire fence. He found it impossible to keep his umbrella
up, which distressed him, for he was totally unaccustomed to getting
He found the driver, who seemed to be a good and domesticated man,
sitting at his fireside with a baby on his knee. His wife was washing
clothes in a corner of the kitchen.
Excuse me, said Sir James, but my business in Dunadea is very
important. There will be serious trouble if
There's no use asking me to go on with the train, said the driver,
for I can't do it. I'd never hear the last of it if I was to be a
The woman at the washtub looked up.
Don't be talking that way, Michael, she said, let you get up and
take the gentleman along to where he wants to go.
I will not, said the driver, I'd do it if I could but I won't
have it said that I was the one to break the strike.
It was very much to the credit of Sir James that he recognised the
correctness of the engine driver's position. It is not pleasant to be
held up twenty-four hours in the middle of a bog. It is most unpleasant
to be kept away from church on one's own wedding day. But Sir James
knew that strikes are sacred things, far more sacred than weddings. He
hastened to agree with the engine driver.
I know you can't go on, he said, nothing would induce me to ask
you such a thing. But perhaps-
The woman at the washtub did not reverence strikes or understand the
labour movement. She spoke abruptly.
Have sense the two of you, she said, What's to hinder you taking
the gentleman into Dunadea, Michael?
It's what I can't do nor won't, said her husband.
I'm not asking you to, said Sir James. I understand strikes
thoroughly and I know you can't do it. All I came here for was to ask
you to tell me where I could find a telegraph office.
There's no telegraphic office nearer than Dunadea, said the engine
driver, and that's seven miles along the railway and maybe nine if you
go round by road.
Sir James looked out at the rain. It was thick and persistent. A
strong west wind swept it in sheets across the bog. He was a man of
strong will and great intellectual power; but he doubted if he could
walk even seven miles along the sleepers of a railway line against half
a gale of wind, wearing on his feet a pair of patent leather boots
bought for a wedding.
Get up out of that, Michael, said the woman, And off with you to
Dunadea with the gentleman's telegram. You'll break no strike by doing
that, so not another word out of your head.
I'llI'll give you ten shillings with pleasure, said Sir James,
I'll give you a pound if you'll take a message for me to Mr.
Anything your honour chooses to give, said the woman, will be
welcome, for we are poor people. But it's my opinion that Michael ought
to do it for nothing seeing it's him and his old strike that has things
the way they are.
To listen to you talking, said the driver, anybody would think
I'd made the strike myself; which isn't true at all, for there's not a
man in the country that wants it less than me.
Sir James tore a leaf from his note book and wrote a hurried letter
to Miss Dennison. The engine driver tucked it into the breast pocket of
his coat and trudged away through the rain. His wife invited Sir James
to sit by the fire. He did so gladly, taking the stool her husband had
left. He even, after a short time, found that he had taken the child on
to his knee. It was a persistent child, which clung round his legs and
stared at him till he took it up. The woman went on with her washing.
What, said Sir James, is the immediate cause of this strike?
Cause! she said. There's no cause, only foolishness. If it was
more wages they were after I would say there was some sense in it. Or
if it was less work they wanted you could understand itthough it's
more work and not less the most of the men in this country should be
doing. But the strike that's in it now isn't what you might call a
strike at all. It's a demonstration, so it is. That's what they're
saying anyway. It's a demonstration in favour of the Irish Republic,
which some of them play-boys is after getting up in Dublin. The Lord
save us, would nothing do them only a republic?
Two hours later Sir James went back to his railway carriage. He had
listened with interest to the opinions of the engine driver's wife on
politics and the Labour Movement. He was convinced that a separate and
independent Ministry of Strikes ought to be established in Dublin. His
own office was plainly incapable of dealing with Irish conditions. He
took from his bag a quantity of foolscap paper and set to work to draft
a note to the Prime Minister on the needs and ideas of Irish Labour. He
became deeply interested in his work and did not notice the passing
He was aroused by the appearance of Miss Molly Dennison at the door
of his carriage. Her hair, which was blown about her face, was
exceedingly wet. The water dripped from her skirt and sleeves of her
jacket. Her complexion was as radiant and her smile as brilliant as
Hullo, Jimmy, she said. What a frowst I Fancy sitting in that
poky little carriage with both windows shut. Get up and put away your
silly old papers. If you come along at once we'll just be in time for
How did you get here, said Sir James. I never thought. In this
weather. How did you get here?
On my bike, of course, said Molly. Did a regular sprint. Wind
behind me. Going like blazes. I'd have done it in forty minutes, only
Michael ran into a sheep and I had to wait for him.
Sir James was aware that the engine driver, grinning broadly, was on
the step of the carriage behind Molly.
I lent Michael Dad's old bike, said Molly, and barring the
accident with the sheep, he came along very well.
What I'm thinking, said the driver, is that you'll never be able
to fetch back against the wind that does be in it. I wouldn't say but
you might do it, miss; but the gentleman wouldn't be fit. He's not
accustomed to the like.
We're not going to ride back, said Molly. You're going to take us
back on the engine, with the two bikes in the tender, on top of the
I can't do it, miss, said the driver. I declare to God I'd be
afraid of my life to do it. Didn't I tell you I was out on strike?
We oughtn't to ask him, said Sir James. Surely, Molly, you must
understand that. It would be an act of gross disloyalty on his part,
disloyalty to his union, to the cause of labour. And any effort we make
to persuade himMy dear Molly, the right of collective bargaining
which lies at the root of all strikes
Molly ignored Sir James and turned to the engine driver.
Just you wait here five minutes, she said, till I get someone who
knows how to talk to you.
She jumped out of the carriage and ran down the railway embankment.
Sir James and the engine driver watched her anxiously. I wouldn't
wonder, said Michael, but it might be my wife she's after.
He was quite right. Five minutes later, Molly and the engine
driver's wife were climbing the embankment together.
I don't see, said Sir James, what your wife has to do with the
By this time to-morrow, said Michael, you will see; if so be
you're married by then, which is what Miss Molly said you will be.
His wife, with Molly after her, climbed into the carriage.
Michael, she said, did the young lady tell you she's to be
She did tell me, he said, and I'm sorry for her. But what can I
do? If I was to take that engine into Dunadea they'd call me a blackleg
the longest day ever I lived.
I'd call you something a mighty deal worse if you don't, said his
wife. You and your strikes! Strikes, Moyah! And a young lady wanting
to be married!
Michael turned apologetically to Sir James.
Women does be terrible set on weddings, he said, and that's a
That'll do now, Michael, said Molly; stop talking and put the two
bikes on the tender, and poke up your old fires or what ever it is you
do to make your engine go.
Molly, said Sir James, when Michael and his wife had left the
carriage, I've drawn up a note for the Prime Minister advising the
establishment of a special Ministry of Strikes for Ireland. I feel that
the conditions in this country are so peculiar that our London office
cannot deal with them. I think perhaps I'd better suggest that he
should put you at the head of the new office.
Your visit to Ireland is doing you good already, said Molly.
You're developing a sense of humour.
III. THE FACULTY OF MEDICINE
Dr. Farelly, Medical Officer of Dunailin, volunteered for service
with the R.A.M.C. at the beginning of the war. He had made no
particular boast of patriotism. He did not even profess to be keenly
interested in his profession or anxious for wider experience. He said,
telling the simple truth, that life at Dunailin was unutterably dull,
and that he welcomed warwould have welcomed worse thingsfor the
sake of escaping a monotony which was becoming intolerable.
The army authorities accepted Dr. Farelly. The local Board of
Guardians, which paid him a salary of £200 a year, agreed to let him go
on the condition that he provided a duly qualified substitute to do his
work while he was away. There a difficulty faced Dr. Farelly. Duly
qualified medical men, willing to take up temporary jobs, are not
plentiful in war time. And the job he had to offerDr. Farelly was
painfully conscious of the factwas not a very attractive one.
Dunailin is a small town in Western Con-naught, seven miles from the
nearest railway station. It possesses a single street, straggling and
very dirty, a police barrack, a chapel, which seems disproportionately
large, and seven shops. One of the shops is also the post office.
Another belongs to John Conerney, the butcher. The remaining five are
public houses, doing their chief business in whisky and porter, but
selling, as side lines, farm seeds, spades, rakes, hoes, stockings,
hats, blouses, ribbons, flannelette, men's suits, tobacco, sugar, tea,
postcards, and sixpenny novels. The chief inhabitants of the town are
the priest, a benevolent but elderly man, who lives in the presbytery
next the large chapel; Sergeant Rahilly, who commands the six members
of the Royal Irish Constabulary and lives in the barrack; and Mr.
Timothy Flanagan, who keeps the largest shop in the town and does a
bigger business than anyone else in porter and whisky.
Dr. Farelly, standing on his doorstep with his pipe in his mouth,
looked up and down the street. He was more than ever convinced that it
might be very difficult to get a doctor to go to Dunailin, and still
harder to get one to stay. The town lay, to all appearance, asleep
under the blaze of the noonday August sun. John Conerney's greyhounds,
five of them, were stretched in the middle of the street, confident
that they would be undisturbed. Sergeant Rahilly sunned himself on a
bench outside the barrack door, and Mr. Flanagan sat in a room behind
his shop nodding over the ledger in which his customers' debts were
entered. Dr. Farelly sighed. He had advertised for a doctor to take his
place in all the likeliest papers, and had not been rewarded by a
single answer. He was beginning to think that he must either resign his
position at Dunailin or give up the idea of war service.
At half-past twelve the town stirred in its sleep and partially
awoke. Paddy Doolan, who drove the mail cart, arrived from Derrymore.
Dr. Farelly strolled down to the post office, seeking, but scarcely
hoping for, a letter in reply to his advertisements. He was surprised
and very greatly pleased when the postmistress handed him a large
envelope, fat and bulging, bearing a Manchester postmark. The moment he
opened it Dr. Farelly knew that he had got what he wanted, an
application for the post he had to offer. He took out, one after
another, six sheets of nicely-printed matter. These were testimonials
signed by professors, tutors, surgeons, and doctors, all eloquent about
the knowledge, skill, and personal integrity of one Theophilus Lovaway.
Dr. Farelly stuffed these into his pocket. He had often written
testimonials himselfin Ireland everyone writes them in scoresand he
knew precisely what they were worth. He came at last to a letter, very
neatly typewritten. It began formally:
Dear SirI beg to offer myself as a candidate for the post of
medical officer, temporary, for the town and district of Dunailin, on
the terms of your advertisement in The British Medical Journal.
Dr. Farelly, like the Etruscans in Macaulay's poem, could scare
forbear to cheer. He walked jauntily back to his house, relit his pipe
and sat down to read the rest of the letter.
Theophilus Lovaway was apparently a garrulous person. He had covered
four sheets with close typescript. He began by stating that he was only
just qualified and had never practised anywhere. He hoped that Dr.
Farelly would not consider his want of experience a disqualification.
Dr. Farelly did not care in the least.
If Theophilus Lovaway was legally qualified to write prescriptions,
nothing else mattered. The next three paragraphs of the letterand
they were all longdescribed, in detail, the condition of Lovaway's
health. He suffered, it appeared, from a disordered heart, weak lungs,
and dyspepsia. But for these misfortunes, the letter went on,
Theophilus would have devoted himself to the services of his country in
her great need. Dr. Farelly sniffed. He had a prejudice against people
who wrote or talked in that way. He began to feel less cheerful.
Theophilus might come to Dunailin. It was very doubtful whether he
would stay there long, his lungs, heart, and stomach being what they
The last half of the letter was painfully disconcerting. Two whole
pages were devoted to an explanation of the writer's wish to spend some
time in the west of Ireland. Theophilus Lovaway had managed, in the
middle of his professional reading, to study the literature of the
Irish Renaissance. He had fallen deeply in love with the spirit of the
Celtic peasantry. He described at some length what he thought that
spirit was. Tuned to the spiritual was one of the phrases he used.
Desire-compelling, with the elusiveness of the rainbow's end, was
another. Dr. Farelly grew despondent. If Theophilus expected life in
Dunailin to be in the least like one of Mr. Yeats' plays, he was doomed
to a bitter disappointment and would probably leave the place in three
But Dr. Farelly was not going to give up hope without a struggle. He
put the letter in his pocket and walked across the road to Timothy
Flanagan, he said, I've got a man to take on my job here.
I'm glad to hear it, doctor, said Flanagan. It would be a pity
now if something was to interfere with you, and you wanting to be off
massacring the Germans. If the half of what's in the papers is true,
its massacring or worse them fellows want.
The trouble is, said Dr. Farelly, that the man I've got may not
Why wouldn't he stay? Isn't Dunailin as good a place to be in as
any other? Any sensible man
That's just it, said Dr. Farelly. I'm not at all sure that this
is a sensible man. Just listen to this.
He read aloud the greater part of the letter.
Now what do you think of the man who wrote that? he asked; what
kind of fellow would you say he was?
I'd say, said Flanagan, that he's a simple, innocent kind of man;
but I wouldn't say there was any great harm in him.
I'm very much afraid, said Dr. Farelly, that he's too simple and
innocent. That's the first thing I have against him. Look here now,
Flanagan, if you or anyone else starts filling this young fellow up
with whiskyit will be an easy enough thing to do, and I don't deny
that it'll be a temptation. But if you do it you'll have his mother or
his aunt or someone over here to fetch him home again. That's evidently
the kind of man he is. And if I lose him I'm done, for I'll never get
Make your mind easy about that, doctor. Devil the drop of whisky
he'll get out of my shop while he's here, and I'll take care no other
one will let him have a bottle. If he drinks at all it'll be the stuff
he brings with him in his own portmanteau.
Good, said Dr. Farelly, I'll trust you about that. The next point
is his health. You heard what he said about his heart and his lungs and
He might die on us, said Flanagan, and that's a fact.
Oh, he'll not die. That sort of man never does die, not till he's
about ninety, anyhow. But it won't do to let him fancy this place
doesn't agree with him. What you've got to do is to see that he gets a
proper supply of good, wholesome food, eggs and milk, and all the rest
If there's an egg in the town he'll get it, said Flanagan, and
I'll speak to Johnny Conerney about the meat that's supplied to him.
You may trust me, doctor, if that young fellow dies in Dunailin it'll
not be for want of food.
Thanks, said Dr. Farelly; and keep him cheerful, Flanagan, don't
let him mope. That brings me to the third point. You heard what he
wrote about the Irish Renaissance and the Celtic spirit?
I heard it right enough, said Flanagan, but I'm not sure do I
know the meaning of it.
The meaning of it, said Dr. Farelly, is fairies, just plain,
ordinary fairies. That's what he wants, and I don't expect he'll settle
down contentedly unless he finds a few.
Sure you know well enough, doctor, that there's no fairies in these
parts. I don't say there mightn't have been some in times past, but any
there was is now gone.
I know that, said Dr. Farelly, and I'm not asking you to go
beating thorn bushes in the hopes of catching one. But if this fellow,
Theophilus Lovawaydid ever you hear such a name?if he wants fairies
he must hear about them. You'll have to get hold of a few people who go
in for that sort of thing. Now what about Patsy Doolan's mother? She's
old enough, and she looks like a witch herself.
If the like of the talk of Patsy Doolan's mother would be giving
him is any use I'll see he's satisfied. That old woman would talk the
hind leg off a donkey about fairies or anything else if you were to
give her a pint of porter, and I'll do that. I'll give it to her
regular, so I will. I'd do more than that for you, doctor, for you're a
man I like, let alone that you're going out to foreign parts to put the
fear of God into them Germans, which is no more than they deserve.
Dr. Farelly felt satisfied that Mr. Flanagan would do his best for
Lovaway. And Mr. Flanagan was an important person. As the principal
publican in the town, the chairman of all the councils, boards, and
leagues there were, he had an enormous amount of influence. But Dr.
Farelly was still a little uneasy. He went over to the police barrack
and explained the situation to Sergeant Rahilly. The sergeant readily
promised to do all he could to make Dunailin pleasant for the new
doctor, and to keep him from getting into mischief or trouble. Only in
the matter of Lovaway's taste for Irish folk-lore and poetry the
sergeant refused to promise any help. He was quite firm about this.
It wouldn't do for the police to be mixed up in that kind of work,
he said. Politics are what a sergeant of police is bound to keep out
But hang it all, said Dr. Farelly, fairies aren't politics.
They may or they may not be, said the sergeant. But believe me,
doctor, the men that talks about them things, fairies and all that, is
the same men that's at the bottom of all the leagues in the country,
and it wouldn't do for me to be countenancing them. But I'll tell you
what I'll do for you now, doctor. If I can't get fairies for him I'll
see that anything that's to be had in the district in the way of a fee
for a lunatic or the like goes to the young fellow you're bringing
here. I'll do that, and if there's more I can do you can reckon on
mebarring fairies and politics of all kinds.
Mr. Flanagan and Sergeant Rahilly were trustworthy men. In a good
cause they were prompt and energetic. Flanagan warned the other
publicans in the town that they must not supply the new doctor with any
whisky. He spoke seriously to John Conerney the butcher.
Good meat, now, Johnny. The best you have, next to what joints you
might be supplying to the priest or myself. He has a delicate stomach,
the man that's coming, and a bit of braxy mutton might be the death of
He spoke to Paddy Doolan and told him that his old mother would be
wanted to attend on the new doctor and must be ready whenever she was
Any old ancient story she might know, he said, about the rath
beyond on the hill, or the way they shot the bailiff on the bog in the
bad times, or about it's not being lucky to meet a red-haired woman in
the morning, anything at all that would be suitable she'll be expected
to tell. And if she does what she's bid there'll be a drop of porter
for her in my house whenever she likes to call for it.
Sergeant Rahilly talked in a serious but vague way to everyone he
met about the importance of treating Dr. Lovaway well, and the trouble
which would follow any attempt to rob or ill-use him.
Before Dr. Lovaway arrived his reputation was established in
Dunailin. It was generally believed that he was a dipsomaniac, sent to
the west of Ireland to be cured. It was said that he was very rich and
had already ordered huge quantities of meat from Johnny Conerney. He
was certainly of unsound mind: Mr. Flanagan's hints about fairies
settled that point. He was also a man of immense influence in
Government circles, perhaps a near relation of the Lord-Lieutenant:
Sergeant Rahilly's way of speaking convinced everyone of that. The
people were, naturally, greatly interested in their new doctor, and
were prepared to give him a hearty welcome.
His arrival was a little disappointing. He drove from the station at
Derrymore on Paddy Doolan's car, and had only a small portmanteau with
him. He was expected to come in a motor of his own with a vanload of
furniture behind him. His appearance was also disappointing. He was a
young man. He looked so very young that a stranger might have guessed
his age at eighteen. He wore large, round spectacles, and had pink,
chubby cheeks. In one respect only did he come up to popular
expectation. He was plainly a young man of feeble intellect, for he
allowed Paddy Doolan to overcharge him in the grossest way.
Thanks be to God, said Sergeant Rahilly to Mr. Flanagan, it's
seldom anyone's sick in this place. I wouldn't like to be trusting the
likes of that young fellow very far. But what odds? We've got to do the
best we can for him, and my family's healthy, anyway.
Fate has a nasty trick of hitting us just where we feel most secure.
The sergeant himself was a healthy man. His wife did not know what it
was to be ill. Molly, his twelve-year old daughter, was as sturdy a
child as any in the town. But Molly had an active mind and an
enterprising character. On the afternoon of Doctor Lovaway's arrival,
her mother, father, and most other people being fully occupied, she
made her way round the back of the village, climbed the wall of the
doctor's garden and established herself in an apple tree. She took six
other children with her. There was an abundant crop of apples, but they
were not nearly ripe. Molly ate until she could eat no more. The other
children, all of them younger than Molly, stuffed themselves joyfully
with the hard green fruit.
At eight o'clock that evening Molly complained of pains. Her mother
put her to bed. At half-past eight Molly's pains were considerably
worse and she began to shriek. Mrs. Ra-hilly, a good deal agitated by
the violence of the child's yells, told the sergeant to go for the
doctor. Sergeant Rahilly laid down his newspaper and his pipe. He went
slowly down the street towards the doctor's house. He was surprised to
hear shrieks, not unlike Molly's, in various houses as he passed. Mrs.
Conerney, the butcher's wife, rushed out of her door and told the
sergeant that her little boy, a child of nine, was dying in frightful
Mr. Flanagan was standing at the door of his shop. He beckoned to
It's lucky, he said, things happening the way they have on the
very first night of the new doctor being here.
I don't know so much about luck, said Sergeant Rahilly. What
The half of the children in the town is took with it, said
You may call that luck if it pleases you, said the sergeant. But
it's not my notion of luck. My own Molly's bellowing like a young
heifer, and Mrs. Conerney's boy is dying, so she tells me. If that's
luck I'd rather you had it than me.
I'm sorry for the childer, said Flanagan; but Mrs. Doolan, who's
in the shop this minute drinking porter, says it'll do them no harm if
they're given a sup of water to drink out of the Holy Well beyond
Tubber Neeve, and a handful of rowan berries laid on the stomach or
where-ever else the pain might be.
Rowan berries be damned, said the sergeant. I'm off for the
doctor; not that I'm expecting much from him. A young fellow with a
face like that! I wish to God Dr. Farelly was back with us.
Doctors is no use, said Flanagan, neither one nor another, if
it's true what Mrs. Doolan says.
And what does Mrs. Doolan say? asked the sergeant.
I'm not saying I believe her, said Flanagan, and I'm not asking
you to believe her, but what she says is
He whispered in the sergeant's ear. The sergeant looked at him
Them ones? he said, Them ones? Now what might you and Mrs. Doolan
be meaning by that, Timothy Flanagan?
Just fairies, said Flanagan. Mind you, I'm not saying I believe
Fairies be damned, said the sergeant.
They may be, said Flanagan. I'm not much of a one for fairies
myself; but you'll not deny, sergeant that it looks queer, all the
children being took the same way at the same time. Anyhow, whether you
believe what Mrs. Doolan says or not
I do not believe it, said the sergeant. Not a word of it.
You needn't, said Flanagan, I don't myself. All I say is that
it's lucky a thing of the sort happening the very first evening the new
doctor's in the place. It's fairies he's after, remember that. It's
looking for fairies that brought him here. Didn't Dr. Farelly tell me
so himself and tell you? Wasn't Dr. Farelly afraid he wouldn't stay on
account of fairies being scarce about these parts this long time? And
now the place is full of themaccording to what Mrs. Doolan says.
Sergeant Rahilly heard, or fancied he heard, a particularly loud
shriek from Molly. He certainly heard the wailing of Mrs. Conerney and
the agitated cries of several other women. He turned from Flanagan
without speaking another word and walked straight to the doctor's
Five minutes later Dr. Lovaway, hatless and wearing a pair of
slippers on his feet, was running up the street towards the barrack.
His first case, a serious one, calling for instant attention, had come
to him unexpectedly. Opposite Flanagan's shop he was stopped by Mrs.
Doolan. She laid a skinny, wrinkled, and very dirty hand on his arm.
Her shawl fell back from her head, showing a few thin wisps of grey
hair. Her eyes were bleary and red-rimmed, her breath reeked of porter.
Arrah, doctor dear, she said, I'm glad to see you, so I am. Isn't
it a grand thing now that a fine young man like you would be wanting to
sit down and be talking to an old woman like myself, that might be your
motherno, but your grandmother?
Dr. Lovaway, desperately anxious to reach the sergeant's suffering
child, tried to shake off the old woman. He suspected that she was
drunk. He was certain that she was extremely unpleasant. The suggestion
that she might be his mother filled him with loathing. It was not any
pleasanter to think of her as a grandmother.
Mrs. Doolan clung tightly to his arm with both her skinny hands.
Mr. Flanagan approached them from behind; leaning across Lovaway's
shoulders, he whispered in his ear:
There's not about the placethere's not within the four seas of
Ireland, one that has as much knowledge of fairies and all belonging to
them as that old woman.
Fairies! said Lovaway. Did you saySurely you didn't say
I just thought you'd be pleased, said Flanagan, and it's lucky,
so it is, that Mrs. Doolan should happen to be in the town to-night of
all nights, just when them onesthe fairies, you know, doctorhas
half the children in the town took with pains in their stomachs.
Dr. Lovaway looked round him wildly. He supposed that Flanagan must
be mad. He had no doubt that the old woman was drunk.
I've seen the like before, she said, leering up into Lovaway's
face. I've seen worse. I've seen a strong man tying himself into knots
with the way they had him held, and there's no cure for it only
Lovaway caught sight of Sergeant Rahilly. In his first rush to reach
the stricken child he had left the sergeant behind. The sergeant was a
heavy man who moved with dignity.
Take this woman away, said Lovaway. Don't let her hold me.
Doctor, darling, whined Mrs. Doolan, don't be saying the like of
Biddy Doolan, said the sergeant, sternly, will you let go of the
doctor? I'd be sorry to arrest you, so I would, but arrested you'll be
if you don't get along home out of that and keep quiet.
Mrs. Doolan loosed her hold on the doctor's arm, but she did not go
home. She followed Lovaway up the street, moving, for so old a woman,
at a surprising pace.
Doctor, dear, she said, don't be giving medicine to them childer.
Don't do it now. You'll only anger them that's done it, and it's a
terrible thing when them ones is angry.
Get away home out of that, Biddy Doolan, said the sergeant.
Don't be hard on an old woman, now, sergeant, said Mrs. Doolan.
It's for your own good and the good of your child I'm speaking.
Doctor, dear, there's no cure but the one. A cup of water from the well
of Tubber Neeve, the same to be drawn up in a new tin can that never
was used. Let the child or the man, or it might be the cow, or whatever
it is, let it drink that, a cup at a time, and let you
Lovaway followed by the sergeant, entered the barrack. He needed no
guiding to the room in which Molly lay. Her shrieks would have led a
blind man to her bedside.
Mrs. Doolan was stopped at the door by a burly constable. She
shouted her last advice to the doctor as he climbed the stairs.
Let you take a handful of rowan berries and lay them on the stomach
or wherever the pain might be, and if you wrap them in a yellow cloth
it will be better; but they'll work well enough without that, only not
Driven off by the constable Mrs. Doolan went back to Flanagan's
shop. She was quite calm and did not any longer appear to be the worse
for the porter she had drunk.
You'll give me another sup, now, Mr. Flanagan, she said. It's
well I deserve it. It's terrible dry work talking to a man like that
one who won't listen to a word you're saying.
Flanagan filled a large tumbler with porter and handed it to her.
Tell me this now, Mrs. Doolan, he said.
What's the matter with Molly Rahilly and the rest of them?
It's green apples, said Mrs. Doolan, green apples that they ate
in the doctor's garden. Didn't I see the little lady sitting in the
tree and the rest of the childer with her?
Dr. Lovaway made a somewhat similar diagnosis. He spent several busy
hours going in and out of the houses where the sufferers lay. It was
not till a quarter past eleven that he returned to his home and the
town settled down for the night. At half-past elevenlong after the
legal closing hourSergeant Rahilly was sitting with Mr. Flanagan in
the room behind the shop. A bottle of whisky and a jug of water were on
the table in front of them.
It's a queer thing now about that doctor, said Flanagan. After
what Dr. Farelly said to me I made dead sure he'd be pleased to find
fairies about the place. But he was not. When I told him it was fairies
he looked like a man that wanted to curse and didn't rightly know how.
But sure the English is all queer, and the time you'd think you have
them pleased is the very time they'd be most vexed with you.
IV. A LUNATIC AT LARGE
It was Tuesday, a Tuesday early in October, Dr. Lovaway finished his
breakfast quietly, conscious that he had a long morning before him and
nothing particular to do. Tuesday is a quiet day in Dunailin; Wednesday
is market day and people are busy, the doctor as well as everybody
else. Young women who come into town with butter to sell take the
opportunity of having their babies vaccinated on Wednesday. Old women,
with baskets on their arms, find it convenient on that day to ask the
doctor for something to rub into knee-joints where rheumatic pains are
troublesome. Old men, who have ridden into town on their donkeys,
consult the doctor about chronic coughs, and seek bottles likely to
relieve an impression on the chest.
Fridays, when the Petty Sessions' Court sits, are almost as busy.
Mr. Timothy Flanagan, a magistrate in virtue of the fact that he is
Chairman of the Urban District Council, administers justice of a rude
and uncertain kind in the Court House. While angry litigants are
settling their business there, and repentant drunkards are paying the
moderate fines imposed on them, their wives ask the doctor for advice
about the treatment of whooping cough or the best way of treating a
child which has incautiously stepped into a fire. Fair days, which
occur once a month, are the busiest days of all. Everyone is in town on
fair days, and every kind of ailment is brought to the doctor. Towards
evening he has to put stitches into one or two cut scalps and sometimes
set a broken limb. On Mondays and Thursdays the doctor sits in his
office for an hour or two to register births and deaths.
But Tuesdays, unless a fair happens to fall on Tuesday, are quiet
days. On this particular Tuesday Dr. Lovaway was pleasantly aware that
he had nothing whatever to do and might count on having the whole day
to himself. It was raining very heavily, but the weather did not
trouble him at all. He had a plan for the day which rain could not mar.
He sat down at his writing table, took from a drawer a bundle of
foolscap paper, fitted a new nib to his pen and filled his ink bottle.
He began to write.
A Study of the Remarkable Increase of Lunacy in Rural Connaught.
The title looked well. It would, he felt, certainly attract the
attention of the editor of The British Medical Journal.
But Dr. Lovaway did not like it. It was not for the editor of The
British Medical Journal, or indeed, for a scientific public that he
wanted to write. He started fresh on a new sheet of paper.
Lunacy in the West of Ireland: Its Cause and Cure.
That struck him as the kind of title which would appeal to a
philanthropist out to effect a social reform of some kind. But Dr.
Lovaway was not satisfied with it. He respected reformers and was
convinced of the value of their work, but his real wish was to write
something of a literary kind. With prodigal extravagance he tore up
another whole sheet of foolscap and began again.
The Passing of the Gael Ireland's Crowded Madhouses.
He purred a little over that title and then began the article
itself. What he wanted to say was clear in his mind. He had been three
weeks in Dunailin and he had spent more time over lunatics than
anything else. Almost every day he found himself called upon by
Sergeant Ra-hilly to certify a lunatic, to commit some unfortunate
person with diseased intellect to an asylum. Sometimes he signed the
required document. Often he hesitated, although he was always supplied
by the sergeant and his constables with a wealth of lurid detail about
the dangerous and homicidal tendencies of the patient. Dr. Lovaway was
He gave his whole mind to the consideration of the problem which
pressed on him. He balanced theories. He blamed tea, inter-marriage,
potatoes, bad whisky, religious enthusiasm, and did not find any of
them nor all of them together satisfactory as explanations of the awful
facts. He fell back finally on a theory of race decadence. Already fine
phrases were forming themselves in his mind: The inexpressible beauty
of autumnal decay. The exquisiteness of the decadent efflorescence of
a passing race.
He covered a sheet of foolscap with a barehe called it a
detachedstatement of the facts about Irish lunacy. He had just begun
to recount his own experience when there was a knock at the door. The
housekeeper, a legacy from Dr. Farelly, came in to tell him that
Constable Malone wished to speak to him. Dr. Lovaway left his MS. with
a sigh. He found Constable Malone, a tall man of magnificent physique,
standing in the hall, the raindrops dripping from the cape he wore.
The sergeant is after sending me round to you, sir, said Constable
Malone, to know would it be convenient for you to attend at Ballygran
any time this afternoon to certify a lunatic?
Surely not another! said Dr. Lovaway.
It was myself found him, sir, said the constable with an air of
pride in his achievement. The sergeant bid me say that he'd have Patsy
Doolan's car engaged for you, and that him and me would go with you so
that you wouldn't have any trouble more than the trouble of going to
Ballygran, which is an out-of-the-way place sure enough, and it's a
Is the man violent? asked Dr. Lovaway.
By way of reply Constable Malone gave a short account of the man's
position in life.
He's some kind of a nephew of Mrs. Finnegan, he said, and they
call him Jimmy Finnegan, though Finnegan might not be his proper name.
He does be helping Finnegan himself about the farm, and they say he's
middling useful. But, of course, now the harvest's gathered, Finnegan
will be able to do well enough without him till the spring.
This did not seem to Dr. Lovaway a sufficient reason for
incarcerating Jimmy in an asylum.
But is he violent? he repeated. Is he dangerous to himself or
He never was the same as other boys, said the constable, and the
way of it with fellows like that is what you wouldn't know. He might be
quiet enough to-day and be slaughtering all before him to-morrow. And
what Mrs. Finnegan says is that she'd be glad if you'd see the poor boy
to-day because she's in dread of what he might do to-morrow night?
To-morrow night! Why to-morrow night?
There's a change in the moon to-morrow, said the constable, and
they do say that the moon has terrible power over fellows that's took
Dr. Lovaway, who was young and trained in scientific methods, was at
first inclined to argue with Constable Malone about the effect of the
moon on the human mind. He refrained, reflecting that it is an impious
thing to destroy an innocent superstition. One of the great beauties of
Celtic Ireland is that it still clings to faiths forsaken by the rest
of the world.
At two o'clock that afternoon Dr. Lovaway took his seat on Patsy
Doolan's car. It was still raining heavily. Dr. Lovaway wore an
overcoat of his own, a garment which had offered excellent protection
against rainy days in Manchester. In Dunailin, for a drive to
Ballygran, the coat was plainly insufficient. Mr. Flanagan hurried from
his shop with a large oilskin cape taken from a peg in his men's
outfitting department. Constable Malone, under orders from the
sergeant, went to the priest's house and borrowed a waterproof rug.
Johnny Conerney, the butcher, appeared at the last moment with a
sou'wester which he put on the doctor's head and tied under his chin.
It would not be the fault of the people of Dunailin, if Lovaway, with
his weak lungs, died on them.
Patsy Doolan did not contribute anything to the doctor's outfit, but
displayed a care for his safety.
Take a good grip now, doctor, he said. Take a hold of the little
rail there beside you. The mare might be a bit wild on account of the
rain, and her only clipped yesterday, and the road to Ballygran is
jolty in parts.
Sergeant Rahilly and Constable Malone sat on one side of the car,
Dr. Lovaway was on the other. Patsy Doolan sat on the driver's seat.
Even with that weight behind her the mare proved herself to be a bit
wild. She went through the village in a series of bounds, shied at
everything she saw in the road, and did not settle down until the car
turned into a rough track which led up through the mountains to
Ballygran. Dr. Lovaway held on tight with both hands. Patsy Doolan,
looking back over his left shoulder, spoke words of encouragement.
It'll be a bit strange to you at first, so it will, he said. But
by the time you're six months in Dunailin we'll have you taught to sit
a car, the same as it might be an armchair you were on.
Dr. Lovaway, clinging on for his life while the car bumped over
boulders, did not believe that a car would ever become to him as an
Ballygran is a remote place, very difficult of access. At the bottom
of a steep hill, a stream, which seemed a raging torrent to Dr.
Lovaway, flowed across the road. The mare objected very strongly to
wading through it. Farther on the track along which they drove became
precipitous and more stony than ever. Another stream, scorning its
properly appointed course, flowed down the road, rolling large stones
with it. Patsy Doolan was obliged to get down and lead the mare. After
persuading her to advance twenty yards or so he called for the help of
the police. Sergeant Rahilly took the other side of the mare's head.
Constable Malone pushed at the back of the car. Dr. Lovaway,
uncomfortable and rather nervous, wanted to get down and wade too. But
the sergeant would not hear of this.
Let you sit still, he said. The water's over the tops of my
boots, so it is, and where's the use of you getting a wetting that
might be the death of you?
Is it much farther? asked Lovaway.
The sergeant considered the matter.
It might be a mile and a bit, he said, from where we are this
The mile was certainly an Irish mile, and Dr. Lovaway began to think
that there were some things in England, miles for instance, which are
better managed than they are in Ireland. The bit which followed the
mile belonged to a system of measurement even more generous than Irish
miles and acres.
I suppose now, said the sergeant, that the country you come from
is a lot different from this.
He had taken his seat again on the car after leading the mare up the
river. He spoke in a cheery, conversational tone. Dr. Lovaway thought
of Manchester and the surrounding district, thought of trams, trains,
and paved streets.
It is different, he said, very different indeed.
Ballygran appeared at last, dimly visible through the driving rain.
It was a miserable-looking hovel, roofed with sodden thatch, surrounded
by a sea of mud. A bare-footed woman stood in the doorway. She wore a
tattered skirt and a bodice fastened across her breast with a brass
safety-pin. Behind her stood a tall man in a soiled flannel jacket and
a pair of trousers which hung in a ragged fringe round his ankles.
Come in, said Mrs. Finnegan, come in the whole of yez. It's a
terrible day, sergeant, and I wonder at you bringing the doctor out in
the weather that does be it in. Michaelshe turned to her husband who
stood behind herlet Patsy Doolan be putting the mare into the shed,
and let you be helping him. Come in now, doctor, and take an air of the
fire. I'll wet a cup of tea for you, so I will.
Dr. Lovaway passed through a low door into the cottage. His eyes
gradually became accustomed to the gloom inside and to the turf smoke
which filled the room. In a corner, seated on a low stool, he saw a
young man crouching over the fire.
That's him, said Mrs. Finnegan. That's the poor boy, doctor. The
sergeant will have been telling you about him.
The boy rose from his stool at the sound of her voice.
Speak to the gentleman now, said Mrs. Finnegan. Speak to the
doctor, Jimmy alannah, and tell him the way you are.
Your honour's welcome, said Jimmy, in a thin, cracked voice. Your
honour's welcome surely, though I don't mind that ever I set eyes on
Whisht now, Jimmy, said the sergeant. It's the doctor that's come
to see you, and it's for your own good he's come.
I know that, said Jimmy, and I know he'll be wanting to have me
put away. Well, what must be, must be, if it's the will of God, and if
it's before me it may as well be now as any other time.
You see the way he is, said the sergeant.
And I have the papers here already to be signed.
Dr. Lovaway saw, or believed he saw, exactly how things were. The
boy was evidently of weak mind. There was little sign of actual lunacy,
no sign at all of violence about him. Mrs. Finnegan added a voluble
description of the case.
It might be a whole day, she said, and he wouldn't be speaking a
word, nor he wouldn't seem to hear if you speak to him, and he'd just
sit there by the fire the way you see him without he'd be doing little
turns about the place, feeding the pig, or mending a gap in the wall or
the like. I will say for Jimmy, the poor boy's always willing to do the
best he can.
Don't be troubling the doctor now, Mrs. Finnegan, said the
sergeant. He knows the way it is with the boy without your telling
him. Just let the doctor sign what has to be signed and get done with
it. Aren't we wet enough as it is without standing here talking half
The mention of the wet condition of the party roused Mrs. Finnegan
to action. She hung a kettle from a blackened hook in the chimney and
piled up turf on the fire. Jimmy was evidently quite intelligent enough
to know how to boil water. He took the bellows, went down on his knees,
and blew the fire diligently. Mrs. Finnegan spread a somewhat dirty
tablecloth on a still dirtier table and laid out cups and saucers on
Dr. Lovaway was puzzled. The boy at the fire might be, probably was,
mentally deficient. He was not a case for an asylum. He was certainly
not likely to become violent or to do any harm either to himself or
anyone else. It was not clear why Mrs. Finnegan, who seemed a kindly
woman, should wish to have him shut up. It was very difficult to
imagine any reason for the action of the police in the matter.
Constable Malone had discovered the existence of the boy in this remote
place. Sergeant Rahilly had taken a great deal of trouble in preparing
papers for his committal to the asylum, and had driven out to Ballygran
on a most inclement day. Dr. Lovaway wished he understood what was
Finnegan, having left Patsy Doolan's mare, and apparently Patsy
Doolan himself in the shed, came into the house.
Dr. Lovaway appealed to him.
It doesn't seem to me, he said, that this boy ought to be sent to
an asylum. I shall be glad to hear anything you have to tell me about
Well now, said Mr. Finnegan, he's a good, quiet kind of a boy,
and if he hasn't too much sense there's many another has less.
That's what I think, said Dr. Lovaway.
Jimmy stopped blowing the fire and looked round suddenly.
Sure, I know well you're wanting to put me away, he said.
It's for your own good, said the sergeant.
It'll do him no harm anyway, said Finnegan, if so be he's not
Kept! said the sergeant. Is it likely now that they'd keep a boy
like Jimmy? He'll be out again as soon as ever he's in. I'd say now a
fortnight is the longest he'll be there.
I wouldn't like, said Finnegan, that he'd be kept too long. I'll
be wanting him for spring work, but I'm willing to spare him from this
till Christmas if you like.
Dr. Lovaway, though a young man and constitutionally timid, was
capable of occasional firmness.
I'm certainly not going to certify that boy as a lunatic, he said.
Come now, doctor, said the sergeant persuasively, after coming so
far and the wet day and all. What have you to do only to put your name
at the bottom of a piece of paper? And Jimmy's willing to go. Aren't
I'll go if I'm wanted to go, said Jimmy.
The water boiled. Mrs. Finnegan was spreading butter on long slices
cut from a home-baked loaf. It was Jimmy who took the kettle from the
hook and filled the teapot.
Mrs. Finnegan, said Dr. Lovaway, why do you want the boy put into
Is it me wanting him put away? she said. I want no such thing.
The notion never entered my head, nor Michael's either, who's been like
a father to the boy. Only when Constable Malone came to me, and when it
was a matter of pleasing him and the sergeant, I didn't want to be
disobliging, for the sergeant is always a good friend of mine, and
Constable Malone is a young man I've a liking for. But as for wanting
to get rid of Jimmy! Why would I? Nobody'd grudge the bit the creature
would eat, and there's many a little turn he'd be doing for me about
Mr. Finnegan was hovering in the background, half hidden in the
smoke which filled the house. He felt that he ought to support his
What I said to the sergeant, he said, no longer ago than last
Friday when I happened to be in town about a case I had on in the Petty
Sessions' Courtwhat I said to the sergeant was this: 'So long as the
boy isn't kept there too long, and so long as he's willing to go'
Jimmy, seated again on his low stool before the fire, looked up.
Amn't I ready to go wherever I'm wanted? he said.
There you are now, doctor, said the sergeant. You'll not refuse
the poor boy when he wants to go?
Sergeant, said Dr. Lovaway, I can't, I really can't certify that
boy is a lunatic. I don't understand why you ask me to. It seems to
Poor Lovaway was much agitated. It seemed to him that he had been
drawn into an infamous conspiracy against the liberty of a particularly
helpless human being.
I don't think you ought to have asked me to come here, he said. I
don't think you should have suggestedIt seems to me, sergeant, that
your conduct has been most reprehensible. I'm inclined to think I ought
to report the matter toto Dr. Lovaway was not quite sure about
the proper place to which to send a report about the conduct of a
sergeant of the Irish Police. To the proper authorities, he concluded
There, there, said the sergeant, soothingly, we'll say no more
about the matter. I wouldn't like you to be vexed, doctor.
But Dr. Lovaway, having once begun to speak his mind, was not
inclined to stop.
This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened, he
said. You've asked me to certify lunacy in some very doubtful cases. I
don't understand your motives, but
Well, well, said the sergeant, there's no harm done anyway.
Mrs. Finnegan, like all good women, was anxious to keep the peace
among the men under her roof.
Is the tea to your liking, doctor, she said, or will I give you a
taste more sugar in it? I'm a great one for sugar myself, but they tell
me there's them that drinks tea with ne'er a grain of sugar in it at
all. They must be queer people that do that.
She held a spoon, heaped up with sugar, over the doctor's cup as she
spoke. He was obliged to stop lecturing the sergeant in order to
convince her that his tea was already quite sweet enough. It was,
indeed, far too sweet for his taste, for he was one of those queer
people whose tastes Mrs. Finnegan could not understand.
The drive home ought to have been in every way pleasanter than the
drive out to Ballygran. Patsy Doolan's mare was subdued in temper; so
docile, indeed, that she allowed Jimmy to put her between the shafts.
She made no attempt to stand on her hind legs, and did not shy even at
a young pig which bolted across the road in front of her. Dr. Lovaway
could sit on his side of the car without holding on. The rain had
ceased and great wisps of mist were sweeping clear of the hilltops,
leaving fine views of grey rock and heather-clad slopes. But Dr.
Lovaway did not enjoy himself. Being an Englishman he had a strong
sense of duty, and was afflicted as no Irishman ever is by a civic
conscience. He felt that he ought to bring home somehow to Sergeant
Rahilly a sense of the iniquity of trying to shut up sane, or almost
sane, people in lunatic asylums. Being of a gentle and friendly nature
he hated making himself unpleasant to anyone, especially to a man like
Sergeant Rahilly, who had been very kind to him.
The path of duty was not made any easier to him by the behaviour of
the sergeant. Instead of being overwhelmed by a sense of discovered
guilt, the police, both Rahilly and Constable Ma-lone, were pleasantly
chatty, and evidently bent on making the drive home as agreeable as
possible for the doctor. They told him the names of the hills and the
more distant mountains. They showed the exact bank at the side of the
road from behind which certain murderous men had fired at a land agent
in 1885. They explained the route of a light railway which a forgotten
Chief Secretary had planned but had never built owing to change of
Government and his loss of office. Not one word was said about Jimmy,
or lunatics, or asylums. It was with great difficulty that Dr. Lovaway
succeeded at last in breaking in on the smooth flow of chatty
reminiscences. But when he did speak he spoke strongly. As with most
gentle and timid men, his language was almost violent when he had
screwed himself up to the point of speaking at all.
The two policemen listened to all he said with the utmost good
humour. Indeed, the sergeant supported him.
You hear what the doctor's saying to you, Constable Malone, he
I do, surely, said the constable.
Well, I hope you'll attend to it, said the sergeant, and let
there be no more of the sort of work that the doctor's complaining of.
But I mean you too, sergeant, said Dr. Lovaway. You're just as
much to blame as the constable. Indeed more, for you're his superior
I know that, said the sergeant; I know that well. And what's
more, I'm thankful to you, doctor, for speaking out what's in your
mind. Many a one wouldn't do it. And I know that every word you've been
saying is for my good and for the good of Constable Malone, who's a
young man yet and might improve if handled right. That's why I'm
thanking you, doctor, for what you've said.
When Solomon said that a soft answer turneth away wrath he
understated a great truth. A soft answer, if soft enough, will deflect
the stroke of the sword of justice. Dr. Lovaway, though his conscience
was still uneasy, could say no more. He felt that it was totally
impossible to report Sergeant Rahilly's way of dealing with lunatics to
the higher authorities.
That night Sergeant Rahilly called on Mr. Flanagan, going into the
house by the back door, for the hour was late. He chose porter rather
than whisky, feeling perhaps that his nerves needed soothing and that a
stronger stimulant might be a little too much for him. After finishing
a second bottle and opening a third, he spoke.
I'm troubled in my mind, he said, over this new doctor. Here I am
doing the best I can for him ever since he came to the town, according
to what I promised Dr. Farelly.
No man, said Flanagan, could do more than what you've done.
Everyone knows that.
I've set the police scouring the country, said the sergeant,
searching high and low and in and out for anyone, man or woman, that
was the least bit queer in the head. They've worked hard, so they have,
and I've worked hard myself.
No man harder, said Flanagan.
And everyone we found, said the Sergeant, was a guinea into the
doctor's pocket. A guinea, mind you, that's the fee for certifying a
lunatic, and devil a penny either I or the constables get out of it.
Nor you wouldn't be looking for it, sergeant. I know that.
I would not. And I'm not complaining of getting nothing, But it's
damned hard when the doctor won't take what's offered to him, when
we've had to work early and late to get it for him. Would you believe
it now, Mr. Flanagan, he's refused to certify half of the ones we've
found for him?
Do you tell me that? said Flanagan.
Throwing good money away, said the sergeant; and to-day, when I
took him to see that boy that does be living in Finnegan's, which would
have put two guineas into his pocket, on account of being outside his
own district, instead of saying 'thank you' like any ordinary man
would, nothing would do him only to be cursing and swearing. 'It's a
crime,' says he, 'and a scandal,' says he, 'and it's swearing away the
liberty of a poor man,' says he; and more to that. Now I ask you, Mr.
Flanagan, where's the crime and where's the scandal?
There's none, said Flanagan. What harm would it have done the lad
to be put away for a bit?
That's what I said to the doctor. What's more, they'd have let the
boy out in a fortnight, as soon as they knew what way it was with him.
I told the doctor that, but 'crime,' says he, and 'scandal,' says he,
and 'conspiracy,' says he. Be damn, but to hear him talk you'd think I
was trying to take two guineas out of his pocket instead of trying to
put it in, and there's the thanks I get for going out of my way to do
the best I could for him so as he'd rest content in this place and let
Dr. Farelly stay where he is to be cutting the legs off the Germans.
It's hard, so it is, said Flanagan, and I'm sorry for you,
sergeant. But that's the way things is. As I was saying to you once
before and maybe oftener, the English is queer people, and the more
you'd be trying to please them the less they like it. It's not easy to
deal with them, and that's a fact.
V. THE BANDS OF BALLYGUTTERY
The Wolfe Tone Republican Club has its headquarters at Ballyguttery.
Its members, as may be guessed, profess the strongest form of
Nationalism. There are about sixty of them. The Loyal True-Blue
Invincibles are an Orange Lodge. They also meet in Ballyguttery. There
are between seventy and eighty Loyal Invincibles. There are also in the
village ten adult males who are not members of either the club or the
lodge. Six of these are policemen. The other four are feeble people of
no account, who neglect the first duty of good citizens and take no
interest in politics.
Early in September the Wolfe Tone Republicans determined to hold a
demonstration. They wished to convince a watching world, especially the
United States of America, that the people of Ballyguttery are unanimous
and enthusiastic in the cause of Irish independence. They proposed to
march through the village street in procession, with a band playing
tunes in front of them, and then to listen to speeches made by eminent
men in a field.
The Loyal Invincibles heard of the intended demonstration. They
could hardly help hearing of it, for the Wolfe Tone Republicans talked
of nothing else, and the people of Ballyguttery, whatever their
politics, live on friendly terms with each other and enjoy long talks
about public affairs.
The Loyal Invincibles at once assembled and passed a long
resolution, expressing their determination to put a stop to any
National demonstration. They were moved, they said, by the necessity
for preserving law and order, safeguarding life and property, and
maintaining civil and religious liberty. No intention could have been
better than theirs; but the Wolfe Tone Republicans also had excellent
intentions, and did not see why they should not demonstrate if they
wished to. They invited all the eminent men they could think of to make
speeches for them. They also spent a good deal of money on printing,
and placarded the walls round the village with posters, announcing that
their demonstration would be held on September fifteenth, the
anniversary of the execution of their patron Wolfe Tone by the English.
In fact Wolfe Tone was not executed by the English or anyone else,
and the date of his death was November the nineteenth. But that made no
difference to either side, because no one in Ballyguttery ever reads
The Loyal True-Blue Invincibles did not tear down the posters. They
were kindly men, averse to unneighbourly acts. But they put up posters
of their own, summoning every man of sound principles to assemble on
September fifteenth at 10.30 a.m, in order to preserve law, order,
life, property, and liberty, by force if necessary.
Mr. Hinde, District Inspector of Police in Ballyguttery, was
considering the situation. He was in an uncomfortable position, for he
had only four constables and one sergeant under his command. It seemed
to him that law and order would disappear for the time, life and
property be in danger, and that he would not be able to interfere very
much with anybody's liberty. Mr. Hinde was, however, a young man of
naturally optimistic temper. He had lived in Ireland all his life, and
he had a profound belief in the happening of unexpected things.
On September the tenth the Wolfe Tone Republicans made a most
Six months before, they had lent their band instruments to the
Thomas Emmet Club, an important association of Nationalists in the
The Thomas Emmets, faced with a demand for the return of the
instruments, confessed that they had lent them to the Martyred
Archbishops' branch of the Gaelic League. They, in turn, had lent them
to the Manchester Martyrs' Gaelic Football Association. These athletes
would, no doubt, have returned the instruments honestly; but
unfortunately their association had been suppressed by the Government
six weeks earlier and had only just been re-formed as the Irish Ireland
In the process of dissolution and reincarnation the band instruments
had disappeared. No one knew where they were. The only suggestion the
footballers had to make was that the police had taken them when
suppressing the Manchester Martyrs. This seemed probable, and the
members of the Wolfe Tone Republican Club asked their president, Mr.
Cornelius O'Farrelly, to call on Mr. Hinde and inquire into the matter.
Mr. Hinde was surprised, very agreeably surprised, at receiving a
visit one evening from the president of the Republican Club. In
Ireland, leading politicians, whatever school they belong to, are
seldom on friendly terms with the police. He greeted O'Farrelly warmly.
What I was wishing to speak to you about was this O'Farrelly
Fill your pipe before you begin talking, said Mr. Hinde. Here's
some tobacco. He offered his pouch as he spoke. I wish I could offer
you a drink; but there's no whisky to be got nowadays.
I know that, said O'Farrelly in a friendly tone, and what's more,
I know you'd offer it to me if you had it.
He filled his pipe and lit it. Then he began again: What I was
wishing to speak to you about is the band instruments.
If you want a subscription said Hinde.
I do not want any subscription.
That's just as well, for you wouldn't get it if you did. I've no
money, for one thing; and besides it wouldn't suit a man in my position
to be subscribing to rebel bands.
I wouldn't ask you, said O'Farrelly. Don't I know as well as
yourself that it would be no use? And anyway it isn't the money we
want, but our own band instruments.
What's happened to them? said Hinde.
You had a lot. Last time I saw your band it was fitted out with
drums and trumpets enough for a regiment.
It's just them we're trying to get back.
If anyone has stolen them, said Hinde, I'll look into the matter
and do my best to catch the thief for you.
Nobody stole them, said O'Farrelly; not what you'd call stealing,
anyway; but it's our belief that the police has them.
You're wrong there, said Hinde. The police never touched your
instruments, and wouldn't.
They might not if they knew they were ours. But from information
received we think the police took them instruments the time they were
suppressing the Manchester Martyrs beyond the Lisnan, the instruments
being lent to them footballers at that time.
I remember all about that business, said Hinde. I was there
myself. But we never saw your instruments. All we took away with us was
two old footballs and a set of rotten goal-posts. Whatever happened to
your instruments, we didn't take them. I expect, said Hinde, that the
Manchester Martyr boys pawned them.
O'Farrelly sat silent. It was unfortunately quite possible that the
members of the football club had pawned the instruments, intending, of
course, to redeem them when the club funds permitted.
I'm sorry for you, said Hinde. It's awkward for you losing your
drums and things just now, with this demonstration of yours advertised
all over the place. You'll hardly be able to hold the demonstration,
The demonstration will be held, said O'Farrelly firmly.
Not without a band, surely. Hang it all, O'Farrelly, a
demonstration is no kind of use without a band. It wouldn't be a
demonstration. You know that as well as I do.
O'Farrelly was painfully aware that a demonstration without a band
is a poor business. He rose sadly and said good night. Hinde felt sorry
If the police had any instruments, he said, I'd lend them to you.
But we haven't a band of our own here. There aren't enough of us.
This assurance, though it was of no actual use, cheered O'Farrelly.
It occurred to him that though the police had no band instruments to
lend it might be possible to borrow elsewhere. The Loyal True-Blue
Invincibles, for instance, had a very fine band, well supplied in every
way, particularly with big drums. O'Farrelly thought the situation over
and then called on Jimmy McLoughlin, the blacksmith, who was the
secretary of the Orange Lodge.
Jimmy, said O'Farrelly, we're in trouble about the demonstration
that's to be held next Tuesday.
It'd be better for you, said Jimmy, if that demonstration was
never held. For let me tell you this: the Lodge boys has their minds
made up to have no Papist rebels demonstrating here.
It isn't you, nor your Orange Lodge nor all the damned Protestants
in Ireland would be fit to stop us, said O'Farrelly.
Jimmy McLoughlin spit on his hands as if in preparation for the
fray. Then he wiped them on his apron, remembering that the time for
fighting had not yet come.
And what's the matter with your demonstration? he asked.
It's the want of instruments for the band that has us held up,
said O'Farrelly. We lent them, so we did, and the fellows that had
them didn't return them.
Jimmy McLoughlin pondered the situation. He was as well aware as Mr.
Hinde, as O'Farrelly himself, that a demonstration without a band is a
It would be a pity now, he said slowly, if anything was to
interfere with that demonstration, seeing as how you're ready for it
and we're ready for you.
It would be a pity. Leaving aside any political or religious
differences that might be dividing the people of Ballyguttery, it would
be a pity for the whole of us if that demonstration was not to be
How would it be now, said Jimmy Mc-Loughlin, if we was to lend
you our instruments for the day?
We'd be thankful to you if you did, very thankful, said
O'Farrelly; and, indeed, it's no more than I'd expect from you, Jimmy,
for you always were a good neighbour. But are you sure that you'll not
be wanting them yourselves?
We will not want them, said Jimmy Me-Loughlin. It'll not be drums
we'll be beating that daynot drums, but the heads of Papists. But
mind what I'm saying to you now. If we lend you the instruments, you'll
have to promise that you'll not carry them beyond the cross-roads this
side of Dicky's Brae. You'll leave the whole of them there beyond the
cross-roads, drums and all. It wouldn't do if any of the instruments
got broke on us or the drums lostwhich is what has happened more than
once when there's been a bit of a fight. And it'll be at Dicky's Brae
that we'll be waiting for you.
I thought as much, said O'Farrelly, and I'd be as sorry as you'd
be yourself if any harm was to come to your drums. They'll be left at
the cross-roads the way you tell me. You may take my word for that. You
can pick them up there yourselves and take them back with you when
you're going home in the eveningthose of you that'll be left alive to
go home. For we'll be ready for you, Jimmy, and Dicky's Brae will suit
us just as well as any other place.
The Wolfe Tone Republicans are honourable men. Their band marched at
the head of the procession through the streets of the village. They
played all the most seditious tunes there are, and went on playing for
half a mile outside the village. The police, headed by Mr. Hinde,
followed them. At the cross-roads there was a halt. The bandsmen laid
down the instruments very carefully on a pile of stones beside the
road. Then they took the fork of the road which leads southwards.
The direct route to Dicky's Brae lies northwest along the other fork
of the road. Cornelius O'Farrelly had the instinct of a military
commander. His idea was to make a wide detour, march by a cross-road
and take the Dicky Brae position in the rear. This would require some
time; but the demonstrators had a long day before them, and if the
speeches were cut a little short no one would be any the worse.
Jimmy McLoughlin and the members of the Loyal True-Blue Invincibles
sat on the roadside at the foot of Dicky's Brae and waited. They
expected that the Wolfe Tone Republicans would reach the place about
noon. At a quarter to twelve Mr. Hinde and five police arrived. They
had with them a cart carefully covered with sacking. No one was in the
least disturbed by their appearance. Five police, even with an officer
at their head, cannot do much to annoy two armies of sixty and seventy
The police halted in the middle of the road. They made no attempt to
unload their cart.
At 1.30 Jimmy McLoughlin took council with some of the leading
members of the Loyal True-Blue Invincible Lodge. It seemed likely that
the Wolfe Tone Republicans had gone off to demonstrate in some other
direction, deliberately shirking the fight which had been promised
I'd never have thought it of Cornelius O'Farrelly, said Jimmy
sadly. I had a better opinion of him, so I had. I knew he was a Papist
and a rebel and every kind of a blackguard, but I'd never have thought
he was a coward.
While he spoke, a small boy came running down the hill. He brought
the surprising intelligence that the Wolfe Tone Republicans were
advancing in good order from a totally unexpected direction. Jimmy
McLoughlin looked round and saw them. So did Mr. Hinde.
While Jimmy summoned his men from the ditches where they were
smoking and the fields into which they had wandered, Mr. Hinde gave an
order to his police. They took the sacking from their cart. Underneath
it were all the band instruments belonging to the Orange Lodge. The
police unpacked them carefully and then, loaded with drums and brass
instruments, went up the road to meet the Wolfe Tone Republicans.
Jimmy McLoughlin ran to Mr. Hinde, shouting as he went:
What are you doing with them drums?
Mr. Hinde turned and waited for them.
I'm going to hand them over to Cornelius O'Farrelly, he said.
You're going to do nothing of the sort, said Jimmy, for they're
our drums, so they are.
I don't know anything about that, said Mr. Hinde, all I know is
that they're the instruments which O'Farrelly's band were playing when
they marched out of the town. They left them on the side of the road,
where my men found them.
What right had you to be touching them at all, said Jimmy.
Every right. O'Farrelly was complaining to me three days ago that
one set of band instruments had been stolen from him. It's my business
to see that he doesn't lose another set in the same way, even if he's
careless enough to leave them lying about on the side of the road.
Amn't I telling you that they're ours, not his? said Jimmy.
You'll have to settle that with him.
Sure, if I settle that with him, said Jimmy, in the only way
anything could be settled with a pack of rebels, the instruments will
be broke into smithereens before we're done.
This seemed very likely. Jimmy McLoughlin's bandsmen, armed with
sticks and stones, were forming up on the road. The police had already
handed over the largest drum to one of the leading Wolfe Tone
Republicans. It was Cornelius O'Farrelly who made an attempt to save
He came forward and addressed Mr. Hinde. It would be better, he
said, if you'd march the police off out of this and let them take the
band instruments along with them, for if they don't the drums will
surely be broke and the rest of the things twisted up so as nobody'll
ever be able to blow a tune on them again, which would be a pity and a
great loss to all parties concerned.
I'll take the police away if you like, said Mr. Hinde, but I'm
hanged if I go on carting all those instruments about the country. I
found them on the side of the road where you left them, and now that
I've given them back to you I'll take no further responsibility in the
The two sets of bandsmen were facing each other on the road. The
instruments were divided between them. They were uttering the most
bloodthirsty threats, and it was plain that in a minute or two there
would be a scrimmage.
Jimmy, said O'Farrelly, if the boys get to fighting
I don't know, said Jimmy gloomily, where the money's to come from
to buy new drums.
It might be better, said O'Farrelly, if we was to go home and
leave the instruments back safe where they came from before worse comes
Ten minutes later the instruments were safely packed again into the
cart. One of the Loyal True-Blue Invincibles led the horse. A Wolfe
Tone Republican sat in the cart and held the reins. Jimmy McLoughlin
and Cornelius O'Farrelly walked together. It was plain to everyone that
hostilities were suspended for the day.
I'm thinking, said Jimmy, that ye didn't hold your demonstration
after all. I hope this'll be a lesson to you not to be trying anything
of the sort for the future.
For all your fine talk, said O'Farrelly, you didn't stop us. And
why not? Because you weren't fit to do it.
We could have done it, said Jimmy, and we would But what's the
use of talking? So long as no demonstration was held we're satisfied.
So long as you didn't get interfering with us, we're satisfied.
Mr. Hinde, walking behind the procession with his five police, had
perhaps the best reason of all for satisfaction.
VI. STARTING THE TRAIN
Tom O'Donovan leaned as far as possible out of the window of the
railway carriage, a first-class smoking carriage.
Good-bye Jessie, old girl, he said. I'll be back the day after
to-morrow, or the next day at latest. Take care of yourself.
Mrs. O'Donovan, who was not very tall, stood on tip-toe while he
You'll have time enough to get dinner in Dublin, she said, or
will you dine on the boat?
They give you a pretty fair dinner on the boat, said Tom, and
it's less fussy to go on board at once.
She had said that to him before, and he had made the same answer;
but it is necessary to keep on saying something while waiting for a
train to start, and on such occasions there is very seldom anything
fresh to say.
And you'll see Mr. Manners to-morrow morning, she said, after a
Appointment for 10.30, said Tom. I'll breakfast at the Euston
Hotel and take the tube to his office. Bye-bye, old girl.
But the bye-bye, like the kiss, was premature. The train did not
If I get Manners' agency, said Tom, we'll be on the pig's back.
You'll be driving about in a big car with a fur coat on you in the
inside of six months.
Be as fascinating as you can, Tom, she said.
He'd hardly have asked me to go all the way to London, said Tom,
if he wasn't going to give me the agency.
They had reasoned all that out half-a-dozen times since the letter
arrived which summoned Tom to an interview in Mr. Manners' office.
There was no doubt that the agency, which meant the sole right of
selling the Manners' machines in Ireland, would be exceedingly
profitable. And Tom O'Donovan believed that he had secured it.
He glanced at the watch on his wrist.
I wonder what the deuce we're waiting for, he said.
But passengers on Irish railways now-a-days are all accustomed to
trains which do not start, and have learned the lesson of patience. Tom
waited, without any sign of irritation, Mrs. O'Donovan chatted
pleasantly to him. The train had reached the station in good time. It
was due in Dublin two hours before the mail boat left Kingstown. There
was no need to feel worried.
Yet at the end of half-an-hour Tom did begin to feel worried. When
three-quarters of an hour had passed he became acutely anxious.
If we don't get a move on soon, he said, I shall miss the boat,
andI say, Jessie, this is getting serious.
Missing the boat meant missing his appointment in London next
morning, and thenwhy, then Manners would probably give the agency to
someone else. Tom opened the door of his carriage and jumped out.
I'll speak to the guard, he said, and find out what's the
The guard, a fat, good-humoured looking man, was talking earnestly
to the engine driver. Tom O'Donovan addressed him explosively.
Why the devil don't you go on? he said.
The train is not going on to-day, said the guard. It'll maybe
never go on at all.
It was the engine driver who replied. He was a tall, grave man, and
he spoke with dignity, as if he were accustomed to making public
speeches on solemn occasions.
This train, he said, will not be used for the conveyance of the
armed forces of the English Crown, which country is presently at war
with the Irish Republic.
There's soldiers got into the train at this station, said the
guard, in a friendly explanatory tone, and the way things is it
wouldn't suit us to be going on, as long as them ones, he pointed to
the rear of the train with his thumb, stays where they are.
Butoh, hang it all!if the train doesn't go cm I shall miss the
mail boat at Kingstown, and if I'm not in London to-morrow morning I
shall lose the best part of £1,000 a year.
That would be a pity now, said the guard. And I'd be sorry for
any gentleman to be put to such a loss. But what can we do? The way
things is at the present time it wouldn't suit either the driver or me
to be taking the train on while there'd be soldiers in it. It's queer
times we're having at present and that's a fact.
The extreme queerness of the times offered no kind of consolation to
Tom O'Donovan. But he knew it was no good arguing with the guard.
He contented himself with the fervent expression of an opinion which
he honestly held.
It would be a jolly good thing for everybody, he said, if the
English army and the Irish Republic and your silly war and every kind
of idiot who goes in for politics were put into a pot together and
boiled down for soup.
He turned and walked away. As he went he heard the guard expressing
mild agreement with his sentiment.
It might be, said the guard. I wouldn't say but that might be the
best in the latter end.
Tom O'Donovan, having failed with the guard and the engine driver,
made up his mind to try what he could do with the soldiers. He was not
very hopeful of persuading them to leave the train; but his position
was so nearly desperate that he was unwilling to surrender any chance.
He found a smart young sergeant and six men of the Royal Wessex Light
Infantry seated in a third-class carriage. They wore shrapnel helmets,
and their rifles were propped up between their knees.
Sergeant, said Tom, I suppose you know you are holding up the
My orders, sir, said the sergeant, is to travel-
Oh, I know all about your orders. But look here. It would suit you
just as well to hold up the next train. There's another in two hours,
and you can get into it and sit in it all night. But if you don't let
this train go on I shall miss the boat at Kingstown, and if I'm not in
London to-morrow morning I stand to lose £1,000 a year.
Very sorry, sir, said the sergeant, but my ordersI'd be willing
to oblige, especially any gentleman who is seriously inconvenienced.
But orders is orders, sir.
Jessie O'Donovan, who had been following her husband up and down the
platform, caught his arm.
What is the matter, Tom? she said. If the train doesn't
start soon you'll miss the boat. Why don't they go on?
Oh, politics, as usual, Jessie, said Tom. I declare to goodness
it's enough to make a man want to go to heaven before his time, just to
be able to live under an absolute monarchy where there can't be any
politics. But I'm not done yet. I'll have another try at getting along
before I chuck the whole thing up. Is there a girl anywhere about, a
There's the young woman in the bookstalls, said Jessie, but she's
not exactly pretty. What do you want a girl for?
Tom glanced at the bookstall.
She won't do at all, he said. They all know her, and, besides,
she doesn't look the part. But I know where I'll get the girl I want.
Jessie, do you run over to the booking office and buy two third-class
returns to Dublin.
He left her standing on the platform while he jumped on to the line
behind the train, crossed it, and climbed the other platform. She saw
him pass through the gate and run along the road to the town. Being a
loyal and obedient wife she went to the booking office and bought two
tickets, undisturbed by the knowledge that her husband was running fast
in search of a girl, a good-looking girl.
Tom O'Donovan, having run a hundred yards at high speed, entered a
small tobacconist's shop. Behind the counter was a girl, young and very
pretty. She was one of those girls whose soft appealing eyes and
general look of timid helplessness excite first the pity, then the
affection of most men.
Susie, said Tom O'Donovan, breathlessly, ran upstairs and put on
your best dress and your nicest hat and all the ribbons and beads you
have. Make yourself look as pretty as you can, but don't be more than
ten minutes over the job, And send your father to me.
Tom O'Donovan was a regular and valued customer. Susie had known him
as a most agreeable gentleman since she was ten years old. She saw that
he was in a hurry and occupied with some important affair. She did as
he told her without stopping to ask any questions. Two minutes later
her father entered the shop from the room behind it.
Farrelly, said Tom O'Donovan, I want the loan of your daughter
for about four hours. She'll be back by the last train down from
If it was any other gentleman only yourself, Mr. O'Donovan, who
asked me the like of that I'd kick him out of the shop.
Oh! it's all right, said Tom, my wife will be with her the whole
time and bring her back safe.
I'm not asking what you want her for, Mr. O'Donovan, said
Farrelly, but if it was any other gentleman only yourself I would
I want to take her up to Dublin along with my wife, said Tom, and
send her down by the next train. I'd explain the whole thing to you if
I had time, but I haven't. All I can tell you is that I'll most likely
lose £1,000 a year if I don't get Susie.
Say no more, Mr. O'Donovan, said Far-relly. If that's the way of
it you and Mrs. O'Donovan can have the loan of Susie for as long as
Susie changed her dress amazingly quickly. She was back in the shop
in six minutes, wearing a beautiful blue hat, a frock that was almost
new, and three strings of beads round her neck.
Come on, said O'Donovan, we haven't a minute to lose.
They walked together very quickly to the station.
Susie, said Tom, I'm going to put you into a carriage by
yourself, and when you get there you're to sit in a corner and cry. If
you can't cry
I can if I like, said Susie.
Very well, then do. Get your eyes red and your face swollen and
have tears running down your cheeks if you can manage it, and when I
come for you again you're to sob. Don't speak a word no matter what
anyone says to you, but sob likelike a motor bicycle.
I will, said Susie.
And if you do it well, I'll buy you the smartest blouse in London
to-morrow and bring it home to you.
When they reached the station they jumped down from the platform and
crossed the line to the train. Tom opened the door of an empty
third-class carriage and pushed Susie into it. Then he went round to
the back of the train and climbed on to the platform.
He made straight for the carriage in which the soldiers sat.
Sergeant, he said, will you come along with me for a minute?
The sergeant, who was beginning to find his long vigil rather dull,
warned his men to stay where they were. Then he got out and followed
Tom O'Donovan. Tom led him to the carriage in which Susie sat. The girl
had done very well since he left her. Her eyes were red and swollen.
Her cheeks were slobbered. She held a handkerchief in her hand rolled
into a tight damp ball.
You see that girl, said Tom.
Yes, sir, said the sergeant. Seems to be in trouble, sir.
She's in perfectly frightful trouble, said Tom. She's on her way
to Dublinor she would be if this train would startso as to catch
the night mail to Cork. She was to have been married in Cork to-morrow
morning and to have gone off to America by a steamer which leaves
Queenstown at 10.30 a.m. Now of course, the whole thing is off. She
won't get to Dublin or Cork, and so can't be married.
Susie, when she heard this pitiful story, sobbed convulsively.
It's very sad, said Tom.
The sergeant, a nice, tender-hearted young man, looked at Susie's
pretty face and was greatly affected.
Perhaps her young man will wait for her, sir, he said.
He can't do that, said Tom. The fact is that he's a demobilised
soldier, served all through the war and won the V.C. And the Sinn
Feiners have warned him that he'll be shot if he isn't out of the
country before midday to-morrow.
Susie continued to sob with great vigour and intensity. The sergeant
was deeply moved.
It's cruel hard, sir, he said. But my orders
I'm not asking you to disobey orders, said Tom, but in a case
like this, for the sake of that poor young girl and the gallant soldier
who wants to marry hera comrade of your own, sergeant. You may have
known him out in FranceI think you ought to stretch a point. Listen
to me now!
He drew the sergeant away from the door of the carriage and
whispered to him.
I'll do it, sir, said the sergeant. My orders say nothing about
You do what I suggest, said Tom, and I'll fix things up with the
He found the guard and the engine driver awaiting events in the
station-master's office. They were quite willing to follow him to the
carriage in which Susie sat. They listened with deep emotion to the
story which Tom told them. It was exactly the same story which he told
the sergeant, except this time the bridegroom was a battalion commander
of the Irish Volunteers whose life was threatened by a malignant
Black-and-Tan. Susie sobbed as bitterly as before.
It's a hard case, so it is, said the guard, and if there was any
way of getting the young lady to Dublin
There's only one way, said Tom, and that's to take on this
It's what we can't do, said the engine driver, not if all the
girls in Ireland was wanting to get married. So long as the armed
forces of England
But they're not armed, said Tom.
Michael. said the engine driver to the guard, did you not tell me
that them soldiers has guns with them and tin hats on their heads?
I did tell you that, said the guard, and I told you the truth.
My impression is, said Tom, that those soldiers aren't armed at
all. They seem to be a harmless set of men off to Dublin on leave, very
likely going to be married themselves. They're certainly not on duty.
The engine driver scratched his head.
Susie, inspired by a wink from Tom, broke into a despairing wail.
If that's the way of it, said the engine driver, it would be
different, of course.
Come and see, said Tom.
The sergeant and his men were sitting in their compartment smoking
cigarettes. Their heads were bare. Most of them had their tunics
unbuttoned. One of them was singing a song, in which the whole party
Mary, Jane and Polly
Find it very jolly
When we take them out with us to
There was not a single rifle to be seen anywhere.
There now, said Tom. You see for yourselves. You can't call those
men munitions of war.
The guard, who had seen the soldiers march into the station, was
puzzled; but the engine driver seemed convinced that there had been
I'll do it, he said, for the sake of the young girl and the brave
lad that wants to marry her, I'll take the train to Dublin.
Well, hurry up, said Tom. Drive that old engine of yours for all
The driver hastened to his post. The guard blew his whistle shrilly.
Tom seized his wife by the arm.
Hop into the carriage with Susie Farrelly, he said. Dry her eyes,
and tell her I'll spend £5 on a silk blouse for her, pink or blue or
any colour she likes. I'll explain the whole thing to you when we get
to Dublin. I can't travel with you. The guard is only half convinced
and might turn suspicious if he saw us together.
Tom O'Donovan caught, just caught the mail boat at Kingstown. He
secured the agency for the sale of the Manners' machines in Ireland. He
is in a fair way to becoming a very prosperous man; but it is unlikely
that he will ever be a member either of Parliament or Dail Eireann. He
says that politics interfere with business.
VII. UNLAWFUL POSSESSION
When Willie Thornton, 2nd Lieutenant in the Wessex Fusiliers, was
sent to Ireland, his mother was nervous and anxious. She had an idea
that the shooting of men in uniform was a popular Irish sport and that
her boy would have been safer in Germany, Mesopotamia, or even Russia.
Willie, who looked forward to some hunting with a famous Irish pack,
laughed at his mother. It was his turn to be nervous and anxious when,
three weeks after joining his battalion, he received an independent
command. He was a cheerful boy and he was not in the least afraid that
anyone would shoot him or his men. But the way the Colonel talked to
him made him uncomfortable.
There's your village, said the Colonel.
William peered at the map spread on the orderly-room table, and saw,
in very small print, the name Dunedin. It stood at a place where many
roads met, where there was a bridge across a large river.
You'll billet the men in your Court House, said the Colonel, and
you'll search every motor that goes through that village to cross the
For arms, sir? said Willie.
For arms or ammunition, said the Colonel. And you'll have to keep
your eyes open, Thornton. These fellows are as cute as foxes. There
isn't a trick they're not up to and they'll tell you stories plausible
enough to deceive the devil himself.
That was what made Willie Thornton nervous. He would have faced the
prospects of a straight fight with perfect self-confidence. He was by
no means so sure of himself when it was a matter of outwitting men who
were as cute as foxes; and these fellows was an unpleasantly vague
description. It meant, no doubt, the Irish enemy, who, indeed, neither
the Colonel nor Willie could manage to regard as an enemy at all. But
it gave him very little idea of the form in which the enemy might
On the evening of Good Friday Willie marched his men into Dunedin
and took possession of the Court House. That day was chosen because
Easter is the recognized season for Irish rebellions, just as Christmas
is the season for plum puddings in England, and May Day the time for
Labour riots on the Continent. It is very convenient for everybody
concerned to have these things fixed. People know what to expect and
preparations can be properly made. The weather was abominably wet. The
village of Dunedin was muddy and looked miserable. The Court House,
which seldom had fires in it, was damp and uncomfortable. Willie
unloaded the two wagons which brought his men, kit, and rations, and
tried to make the best of things.
The next day was also wet, but Willie, weighted by a sense of
responsibility, got up early. By six o'clock he had the street which
led to the bridge barricaded in such a way that no motor-car could
possibly rush past. He set one of his wagons across the street with its
back to the house and its pole sticking out. In this position it left
only a narrow passage through which any vehicle could go. He set the
other wagon a little lower down with its back to the houses on the
opposite side of the street and its pole sticking out. Anyone driving
towards the bridge would have to trace a course like the letter S, and,
the curves being sharp, would be compelled to go very slowly, Willie
surveyed this arrangement with satisfaction. But to make quite sure of
holding up the traffic he stretched a rope from one wagon pole to the
other so as to block the centre part of the S. Then he posted his
sentries and went into the Court House to get some breakfast.
The people of Dunedin do not get up at six o'clock. Nowadays, owing
to the imposition of summer time and the loss of Ireland's half-hour
of Irish time, six o'clock is really only half-past four, and it is
worse than folly to get out of bed at such an hour. It was eight
o'clock by Willie Thornton's watch before the people became aware of
what had happened to their street. They were surprised and full of
curiosity, but they were not in the least annoyed. No one in Dunedin
had the slightest intention of rebelling. No one even wanted to shoot a
policeman. The consciences, even of the most ardent politicians, were
clear, and they could afford to regard the performance of the soldiers
as an entertainment provided free for their benefit by a kindly
Government. That was, in fact, the view which the people of Dunedin
took of Willie Thornton's barricade, and of his sentries, though the
sentries ought to have inspired awe, for they carried loaded rifles and
wore shrapnel helmets.
The small boys of the villageand there are enormous numbers of
small boys in Dunedinwere particularly interested. They tried the
experiment of passing through the barricade, stooping under the rope
when they came to it, just to see what the soldiers would do. The
soldiers did nothing. The boys then took to jumping over the rope,
which they could do when going downhill, though they had to creep under
it on the way back. This seemed to amuse and please the soldiers, who
smiled amiably at each successful jump. Kerrigan, the butcher,
encouraged by the experience of the small boys, made a solemn progress
from the top of the street to the bridge. He is the most important and
the richest man in Dunedin, and it was generally felt that if the
soldiers let him pass the street might be regarded as free to anyone.
Kerrigan is a portly man, who could not have jumped the rope, and would
have found it inconvenient to crawl under it. The soldiers politely
loosed one end of the rope and let him walk through.
At nine o'clock a farmer's cart, laden with manure, crossed the
bridge and began to climb the street. Willie Thornton came to the door
of the Court House with a cigarette in his mouth and watched the cart.
It was hoped by the people of Dunedin, especially by the small boys,
that something would happen. Foot passengers might be allowed to pass,
but a wheeled vehicle would surely be stopped. But the soldiers loosed
the rope and let the cart go through without a question. Ten minutes
later a governess cart, drawn by a pony, appeared at the top of the
street. It, too, was passed through the barricade without difficulty.
There was a general feeling of disappointment in the village, and most
of the people went back to their houses. It was raining heavily, and it
is foolish to get wet through when there is no prospect of any kind of
excitement. The soldiers, such was the general opinion, were merely
practising some unusual and quite incomprehensible military manouvre.
The opinion was a mistaken one. The few who braved the rain and
stood their ground watching the soldiers, had their reward later on. At
ten o'clock, Mr. Davoren, the auctioneer, drove into the village in his
motor-car. Mr. Davoren lives in Ballymurry, a town of some size, six
miles from Dunedin. His business requires him to move about the country
a good deal, and he is quite wealthy enough to keep a Ford car. His
appearance roused the soldiers to activity. Willie Thornton, without a
cigarette this time, stood beside the barricade. A sentry, taking his
place in the middle of the street, called to Mr. Davoren to halt. Mr.
Davoren, who was coming along at a good pace, was greatly surprised,
but he managed to stop his car and his engine a few feet from the
muzzle of the sentry's rifle.
Willie Thornton, speaking politely but firmly, told Mr. Davoren to
get out of the car. He did not know the auctioneer, and had no way of
telling whether he was one of these fellows or not. The fact that Mr.
Davoren looked most respectable and fat was suspicious. A cute fox
might pretend to be respectable and fat when bent on playing tricks.
Mr. Davoren, still surprised but quite good-humoured, got out of his
car. Willie Thornton and his sergeant searched it thoroughly. They
found nothing in the way of a weapon more deadly than a set of tyre
levers. Mr. Davoren was told he might go on. In the end he did go on,
but not until he, the sergeant, Willie Thornton, and one of the
sentries had worked themselves hot at the starting-crank. Ford engines
are queer-tempered things, with a strong sense of self-respect. When
stopped accidentally and suddenly, they often stand on their dignity
and refuse to go on again. All this was pleasant and exciting for the
people of Dunedin, who felt that they were not wasting their day or
getting wet in vain. And still better things were in store for them. At
eleven o'clock a large and handsome car appeared at the end of the
street. It moved noiselessly and swiftly towards the barricade. The
chauffeur, leaning back behind his glass screen, drove as if the
village and the street belonged to him. Dunedin is, in fact, the
property of his master, the Earl of Ramelton; so the chauffeur had some
right to be stately and arrogant. Every man, woman, and child in
Dunedin knew the car, and there was tiptoe excitement. Would the
soldiers venture to stop and search this car? The excitement became
intense when it was seen that the Earl himself was in the car. He lay
back very comfortably smoking a cigar in the covered tonneau of the
limousine. Lord Ramelton is a wealthy man and Deputy Lieutenant for the
county. He sits and sometimes speaks in the House of Lords. He is well
known as an uncompromising Unionist, whose loyalty to the king and
empire is so firm as to be almost aggressive.
There was a gasp of amazement when the sentry, standing with his
rifle in his hands, called Halt! He gave the order to the earl's
chauffeur quite as abruptly and disrespectfully as he had given it to
Mr. Davoren. The chauffeur stopped the car and leaned back in his seat
with an air of detachment and slight boredom. It was his business to
stop or start the car and to drive where he was told. Why it was
stopped or started or where it went were matters of entire indifference
to him. Lord Ramelton let down the window beside him and put out his
What the devil is the matter? he said.
He spoke to the chauffeur, but it was Willie Thornton who answered
I'm afraid I must trouble you to get out of the car, sir; you and
He had spoken quite as civilly to Mr. Davoren half an hour before.
He added sir this time because Lord Ramelton is an oldish man, and
Willie Thornton had been well brought up and taught by his mother that
some respect is due to age. He did not know that he was speaking to an
earl and a very great man. Lord Ramelton was not in the least soothed
by the civility.
Drive on, Simpkins, he said to the chauffeur.
Simpkins would have driven on if the sentry had not been standing,
with a rifle in his hands, exactly in front of the car. He did the next
best thing to driving on. He blew three sharp blasts of warning on his
horn. The sentry took no notice of the horn. The men of the Wessex
Fusiliers are determined and well-disciplined fellows. Willie
Thornton's orders mattered to that sentry. Lord Ramelton's did not. Nor
did the chauffeur's horn.
Willie Thornton stepped up to the window of the car. He noticed as
he did so that an earl's coronet surmounting the letter R was painted
on the door. He spoke apologetically, but he was still quite firm. A
coronet painted on the door of a car is no proof that the man inside is
an earl. The Colonel had warned Willie that these fellows were as
cute as foxes.
I'm afraid I must trouble you to get out, sir, said Willie. My
orders are to search every car that goes through the village.
Lord Ramelton had once been a soldier himself. He knew that the word
orders has a sacred force.
Oh, all right, he said. It's damned silly; but if you've got to
do it, get it over as quick as you can.
He turned up the collar of his coat and stepped out into the rain.
The chauffeur left his seat and stood in the mud with the air of a
patient but rather sulky martyr. What is the use of belonging to the
aristocracy of labour, of being a member of the Motor Drivers' Union,
of being able to hold up civilisation to ransom, if you are yourself
liable to be held up and made to stand in the rain by a common soldier,
a man no better than an unskilled labourer. Nothing but the look of the
rifle in the unskilled labourer's hand would have induced Simpkins to
leave his sheltered place in the car.
Willie Thornton had every intention of conducting his search
rapidly, perhaps not very thoroughly. Lord Ramelton's appearance, his
voice, and the coronet on the panel, all taken together, were
convincing evidence that he was not one of these fellows, and might
safely be allowed to pass.
Unfortunately there was something in the car which Willie did not in
the least expect to find there. In the front of the tonneau was a large
packing-case. It was quite a common-looking packing-case made of rough
wood. The lid was neatly but firmly nailed down. It bore on its side in
large black letters the word cube sugar.
Willie's suspicions were aroused. The owners of handsome and
beautifully-upholstered cars do not usually drive about with
packing-cases full of sugar at their feet. And this was a very large
case. It contained a hundredweight or a hundredweight and a half of
sugarif it contained sugar at all. The words of the Colonel recurred
to Willie: There's not a trick they're not up to. They'd deceive the
devil himself. Well, no earl or pretended earl should deceive Willie
Thornton. He gave an order to the sergeant.
Take that case and open it, he said.
Damn it, said the Earl, you mustn't do that.
My orders, said Willie, are to examine every car thoroughly.
But if you set that case down in the mud and open it in this
downpour of rain thethe contents will be spoiled.
I can't help that, sir, said Willie. My orders are quite
Look here, said Lord Ramelton, if I give you my word that there
are no arms or ammunition in that case, if I write a statement to that
effect and sign it, will it satisfy you?
No, sir, said Willie. Nothing will satisfy me except seeing for
Such is the devotion to duty of the young British officer. Against
his spirit the rage of the empire's enemies breaks in vain. Nor are the
statements of these fellows, however plausible, of much avail.
Lord Ramelton swallowed, with some difficulty, the language which
gathered on his tongue's tip.
Where's your superior officer? he said.
Willie Thornton believed that all his superior officers were at
least ten miles away. He had not noticednor had anyone elsethat a
grey military motor had driven into the village. In the grey motor was
a General, with two Staff Officers, all decorated with red cap-bands
and red tabs on their coats.
The military authorities were very much in earnest over the business
of searching motor-cars and guarding roads. Only at times of serious
danger do Generals, accompanied by Staff Officers, go out in the wet to
visit outpost detachments commanded by subalterns.
The General left his car and stepped across the road. He recognised
Lord Ramelton at once and greeted him with cheery playfulness.
Hallo! he said, Held up! I never expected you to be caught
smuggling arms about the country.
I wish you'd tell this boy to let me drive on, said Lord Ramelton.
I'm getting wet through.
The General turned to Willie Thornton.
What's the matter? he said.
Willie was pleasantly conscious that he had done nothing except obey
his orders. He saluted smartly.
There's a packing-case in the car, sir, he said, and it ought to
The General looked into Lord Ramelton's car and saw the
packing-case. He could scarcely deny that it might very easily contain
cartridges, that it was indeed exactly the sort of case which should be
opened. He turned to Lord Ramelton.
It's marked sugar, he said. What's in it really?
Lord Ramelton took the General by the arm and led him a little way
up the street. When they were out of earshot of the crowd round the car
he spoke in a low voice.
It is sugar, he said. I give you my word that there's
nothing it that case except sugar.
Good Lord! said the General. Of course, when you say so it's all
right, Ramelton. But would you mind telling me why you want to go
driving about the country with two or three hundredweight of sugar in
It's not my sugar at all, said Lord Ramelton. It's my wife's. You
know the way we're rationed for sugar nowhalf a pound a head and the
servants eat all of it. Well, her ladyship is bent on making some
marmalade and rhubarb jam. I don't know how she did it, but she got
some sugar from a man at Ballymurry. Wangled it. Isn't that the word?
Seems exactly the word, said the General.
And I'm bringing it home to her. That's all.
I see, said the General. But why not have let the officer see
what was in the case? Sugar is no business of his, and you'd have saved
a lot of time and trouble.
Because a village like this is simply full of spies.
Spies! said the General. If I thought there were spies here
Oh, not the kind of spies you mean. The Dunedin people are far too
sensible for that sort of thing. But if one of the shopkeepers here
found out that a fellow in Ballymurry had been doing an illicit sugar
deal he'd send a letter off to the Food Controller straightaway. A man
up in Dublin was fined £100 the other day for much less than we're
doing. I don't want my name in every newspaper in the kingdom for
obtaining sugar by false pretences.
All right, said the General. Its nothing to me where you get your
Willie Thornton, much to his relief, was ordered to allow the Earl's
car to proceed, un-searched. The chauffeur, who was accustomed to be
dry and warm, caught a nasty chill, and was in a bad temper for a week.
He wrote to the Secretary of his Union complaining of the brutal way in
which the military tyrannised over the representatives of skilled
labour. The people of Dunedin felt that they had enjoyed a novel and
agreeable show. Lady Ramelton made a large quantity of rhubarb jam,
thirty pots of marmalade, and had some sugar over for the green
gooseberries when they grew large enough to preserve.
VIII. A SOUL FOR A LIFE
Denis Ryan and Mary Drennan stood together at the corner of the wood
where the road turns off and runs straight for a mile into the town.
They were young, little more than boy and girl, but they were lovers
and they stood together, as lovers do. His left arm was round her. His
right hand held her hand. Her head rested on his shoulder.
Mary, darling, he whispered, what's to hinder us being married
She raised her head from his shoulder and looked tenderly into his
If it wasn't for my mother and my father, we might, she said; but
they don't like you, Denis, and they'll never consent.
Money comes between lovers sometimes; but it was not money, nor the
want of it, which kept Mary and Denis apart. She was the daughter of a
prosperous farmera rich man, as riches are reckoned in Ireland. He
was a clerk in a lawyer's office, and poorly paid. But he might have
earned more. She would gladly have given up anything. And the
objections of parents in such cases are not insuperable. But between
these two there was something more. Denis Ryan was a revolutionary
patriot. Mary Drennan's parents were proud of another loyalty. They
hated what Denis loved. The two loyalties were strong and
irreconcilable, like the loyalties of the South and the North when the
South and the North were at war in America.
What does it matter about your father and mother? he said. If you
love me, Mary, isn't that enough?
She hid her face cm his shoulder again. He could barely hear the
murmur of her answer.
I love you altogether, Denis! I love you so much that I would give
my soul for you!
A man came down the road walking fast. He passed the gate of
Drennan's farm and came near the corner where the lovers stood. Denis
took his arm from Mary's waist, and they moved a little apart. The man
stopped when he came to them.
Good-evening, Denis! he said. Good-evening, Miss Drennan!
The greeting was friendly enough, but he looked at the girl with
Don't forget the meeting to-night, Denis! he said. It's in
Flaherty's barn at nine o'clock. Mind, now! It's important, and you'll
The words were friendly, but there was the hint of a threat in the
way they were spoken. Without waiting for an answer, he walked on
quickly towards the town. Mary stretched out her hands and clung tight
to her lover's arm. She looked up at him, and fear was in her face.
What is it, Denis? she asked. What does Michael Murnihan want
Women in Ireland have reason to be frightened now. Their lovers,
their husbands, and their sons may be members of a secret society, or
they may incur the enmity of desperate men. No woman knows for certain
that the life of the man she loves is safe.
What's the meeting, Denis? she whispered. What does he want you
He neither put his arm round her nor took her hand again.
It's nothing, Mary, he said. It's nothing at all!
But she was more disquieted at his words, for he turned his face
away from her when he spoke.
What is, it? she whispered again. Tell me, Denis!
It's a gentleman down from Dublin that's to talk to the boys
to-night, he said, and the members of the club must be there to
listen to him. It will be about learning Irish that he'll talk, maybe,
or not enlisting in the English Army.
Is that all, Denis? Are you sure now that's all? Will he not want
you to do anything?
That part of the country was quiet enough. But elsewhere there were
raidings of houses, attacks on police barracks, shootings, woundings,
murders; and afterwards arrests, imprisonments, and swift, wild
vengeance taken. Mary was afraid of what the man from Dublin might
want. Denis turned to her, and she could see that he was frightened
Mary, Mary! he said. Whatever comes or goes, there'll be no harm
done to you or yours!
She loosed her hold on his arm and turned from him with a sigh.
I must be going from you now, Denis, she said, Mother will be
looking for me, and the dear God knows what she'd say if she knew I'd
been here talking to you.
Mrs. Drennan knew very well where her daughter had been. She spoke
her mind plainly when Mary entered the farm kitchen.
I'll not have you talking or walking with Denis Ryan, she said;
nor your father won't have it! Everybody knows what he is, and what
his friends are. There's nothing too bad for those fellows to do, and
no daughter of mine will mix herself up with them!
Denis isn't doing anything wrong, mother, said Mary. And if he
thinks Ireland ought to be a free republic, hasn't he as good a right
to his own opinion as you or me, or my father either?
No man has a right to be shooting and murdering innocent people,
whether they're policemen or whatever they are. And that's what Denis
Ryan and the rest of them are at, day and night, all over the country.
And if they're not doing it here yet, they soon will. Blackguards, I
call them, and the sooner they're hanged the better, every one of
In Flaherty's barn that night the gentleman from Dublin spoke to an
audience of some twenty or thirty young men He spoke with passion and
conviction. He told again the thousand times repeated story of the
wrongs which Ireland has suffered at the hands of the English in old,
old days. He told of more recent happenings, of men arrested and
imprisoned without trial, without even definite accusation, of
intolerable infringements of the common rights. He spoke of the
glorious hope of national liberty, of Ireland as a free Republic. The
men he spoke too, young men all of them, listened with flashing eyes,
with clenched teeth, and faces moist with emotion. They responded to
his words with sudden growings and curses. The speaker went on to tell
of the deeds of men elsewhere in Ireland. The soldiers of the Irish
Republic, so he called them. They had attacked the armed forces of
English rule. They had stormed police barracks. They had taken arms and
ammunitions where such things were to be found. These, he said, were
glorious deeds wrought by men everywhere in Ireland.
But what have you done here? he asked. And what do you mean to
Michael Murnihan spoke next. He said that he was ashamed of the men
around him and of the club to which he belonged.
It's a reproach to us, he said, that we're the only men in
Ireland that have done nothing. Are we ready to fight when the day for
fighting comes? We are not. For what arms have we among us? Only two
revolvers. Two revolvers, and that's all. Not a gun, though you know
well, and I know, that there's plenty of guns round about us in the
hands of men that are enemies to Ireland. I could name twenty houses in
the locality where there are guns, and good guns, and you could name as
many more. Why don't we go and take them? Are we cowards?
The men around him shouted angrily that they were no cowards. Denis
Ryan, excited and intensely moved, shouted with the rest. It seemed to
him that an intolerable reproach lay on him and all of them.
What's to hinder us going out to-night? said Murnihan. Why
shouldn't we take the guns that ought to be in our hands and not in the
hands of men who'd use them against us? All of you that are in favour
of going out tonight will hold up your hands.
There was a moment's silence. None of the men present had ever taken
part in any deed of violence, had ever threatened human life or openly
and flagrantly broken the law. The delegate from Dublin, standing near
Murnihan, looked round at the faces of the men. There was a cool,
contemptuous smile on his lips.
Perhaps, he said, you'd rather not do it. Perhaps you'd rather go
away and tell the police that I'm here with you. They'll be glad of the
information. You'll get a reward, I dare say. Anyhow, you'll be safe.
Stung by his reproach, the young men raised their hands one after
another. Denis Ryan raised his, though it trembled when he held it up.
So we're all agreed, said Murnihan. Then we'll do it to-night.
Where will we go first?
There was no lack of suggestions. The men knew the locality in which
they lived and knew the houses where there were arms. Sporting guns in
many houses, revolvers in some, rifles in one or two.
There's a service rifle in Drennan's, said Murnihan, that
belonged to that nephew of his that was out in France, fighting for the
English, and there's a double-barrelled shotgun there, too.
Drennan is no friend of ours, said a man. He was always an enemy
And Drennan's away at the fair at Ballyruddery, with his bullocks,
said another. There'll be nobody in the houseonly his wife and
daughter. They'll not be able to interfere with us.
Murnihan asked for ten volunteers. Every man in the room, except
Denis Ryan, crowded round him, offering to go.
Eight will be enough, said Murnihan. Two to keep watch on the
road, two to keep the women quiet, and four to search the house for
He looked round as he spoke. His eyes rested distrustfully on Denis
Ryan, who stood by himself apart from the others. In secret societies
and among revolutionaries, a man who appears anything less than
enthusiastic must be regarded with suspicion.
Are you coming with us, Denis Ryan? asked Murnihan.
There was silence in the room for a minute. All eyes were fixed on
Denis. There was not a man in the room who did not know how things were
between him and Mary Drennan. There was not one who did not feel that
Denis' faithfulness was doubtful And each man realised that his own
safety, perhaps his own life, depended on the entire fidelity of all
his fellows. Denis felt the sudden suspicion. He saw in the faces
around him the merciless cruelty which springs from fear. But he said
nothing. It was the delegate from Dublin who broke the silence. He,
too, seemed to understand the situation. He realised, at all events,
that for some reason this one man was unwilling to take part in the
raid. He pointed his finger at Denis.
That man, he said, must go, and must take a leading part!
So, and not otherwise, could they make sure of one who might be a
I'm willing to go, said Denis. I'm not wanting to hang back.
Murnihan drew two revolvers from his pocket. He handed one of them
You'll stand over the old woman with that pointed at her head, he
said. The minute we enter the house we'll call to her to put her hands
up, and if she resists you'll shoot. But there'll be no need of
shooting. She'll stand quiet enough!
Denis stepped back, refusing to take the revolver.
Do it yourself, Murnihan, he said, if it has to be done!
I'm not asking you to do what I'm not going to do myself. I'm
taking the other revolver, and I'll keep the girl quiet!
Butbut, said Denis, stammering, I'm not accustomed to guns.
I've never had a revolver in my hand in my life. I'mI'm afraid of
He spoke the literal truth. He had never handled firearms of any
sort, and a revolver in the hands of an inexperienced man is of all
weapons the most dangerous. Nevertheless, with Murnihan's eye upon him,
with the ring of anxious, threatening faces round him, he took the
An hour later, eight men walked quietly up to the Drennan's house.
They wore black masks. Their clothes and figures were rudely but
sufficiently disguised with wisps of hay tied to their arms and legs.
Two of them carried revolvers. At the gate of the rough track which
leads from the high road to the farmhouse the party halted. There was a
whispered word of command. Two men detached themselves and stood as
sentries on the road. Six men, keeping in the shadow of the trees, went
forward to the house. A single light gleamed in one of the windows.
Murnihan knocked at the door. There was no response. He knocked again.
The light moved from the window through which it shone, and
disappeared. Once more Murnihan knocked. A woman's voice was heard.
Who's there at this time of night?
In the name of the Irish Republic, open the door! said Murnihan.
Open, or I'll break it down!
You may break it if you please! It was Mrs. Drennan who spoke.
But I'll not open to thieves and murderers!
The door of an Irish farmhouse is a frail thing ill-calculated to
withstand assault. Murnihan flung himself against it, and it yielded.
He stepped into the kitchen with his revolver in his hand. Denis Ryan
was beside him. Behind him were the other four men pressing in. In the
chimney nook, in front of the still glowing embers of the fire, were
Mrs. Drennan and her daughter. Mary stood, fearlessly, holding a candle
in a steady hand. Mrs. Drennan was more than fearless. She was defiant.
She had armed herself with a long-handled hay-fork, which she held
before her threateningly, as a soldier holds a rifle with a bayonet
Put up your hands and stand still, said Murnihan, both of you!
Put up your hands! said Denis, and he pointed the revolver at Mrs.
The old woman was undaunted.
You murdering blackguards! she shouted. Would you shoot a woman?
Then she rushed at him, thrusting with the hay-fork. Denis stepped
back, and back again, until he stood in the doorway. One of the sharp
prongs of the hay-fork grazed his hand, and slipped up his arm tearing
his skin. Involuntarily, his hand clutched the revolver. His forefinger
tightened on the trigger. There was a sharp explosion. The hay-fork
dropped from Mrs. Drennan's hand. She flung her arms up, half turned,
and then collapsed, all crumpled up, to the ground.
Mary Drennan sprang forward and bent over her.
There was dead silence in the room. The men stood horror-stricken,
mute, helpless. They had intendedGod knows what. To fight for
liberty! To establish an Irish Republic! To prove themselves brave
patriots! They had not intended this. The dead woman lay on the floor
before their eyes, her daughter bent over her. Denis Ryan stood for a
moment staring wildly, the hand which held the revolver hanging limp.
Then he slowly raised his other hand and held it before his eyes.
Mary Drennan moaned.
We'd better clear out of this! said Murnihan. He spoke in a low
tone, and his voice trembled.
Clear out of this, all of you! he said, And get home as quick as
you can. Go across the fields, not by the roads!
The men stole out of the house. Only Denis and Murnihan were left,
and Mary Drennan, and the dead woman. Murnihan took Denis by the arm
and dragged him towards the door. Denis shook him off. He turned to
where Mary kneeled on the ground. He tore the mask from his face and
flung it down.
Oh, Mary, Mary! he said. I never meant it!
The girl looked up. For an instant her eyes met his. Then she bent
forward again across her mother's body. Murnihan grasped Denis again.
You damned fool! he said. Do you want to hang for it? Do you want
us all to hang for this night's work?
He dragged him from the house. With his arm round the waist of the
shuddering man he pulled him along and field to field until they
reached a by-road which led into the town.
Three days later Inspector Chalmers, of the Royal Irish
Constabulary, and Major Whiteley, the magistrate, sat together in the
office of the police barrack stations.
I've got the men who did it, said Chalmers. I've got the whole
eight of them, and I can lay my hands on all the rest of their cursed
club any minute I like.
Have you any evidence? asked Whiteley. Any evidence on which to
I've no evidence worth speaking of, said Chalmers, unless the
girl can identify them. But I know I've got the right men.
The girl won't know them, said Whiteley. They're sure to have
worn masks. And even if she did recognise one of them she'd be afraid
to speak. In the state this country's in everyone is afraid to speak.
The girl won't be afraid, said Chalmers. I know her father, and I
knew her mother that's dead, and I know the girl. There never was a
Drennan yet that was afraid to speak, I've sent the sergeant to fetch
her. She ought to be here in a few minutes, and then you'll see if
Ten minutes later Mary Drennan was shown into the room by the
police-sergeant. The two men who were waiting for her received her
Sit down, Miss Drennan! said Major Whiteley. I'm very sorry to
trouble you, and I'm very sorry to have to ask you to speak about a
matter which must be painful to you. But I want you to tell me, as well
as you can recollect, exactly what happened on the night your mother
Mary Drennan, white faced and wretched, told her story as she had
told it before to the police-officer. She said that her father was
absent from home, taking bullocks to the fair, that she and her mother
sat up late, that they went to bed together about eleven o'clock. She
spoke in emotionless, even tones, even when she told how six men had
burst into the kitchen.
Could you recognise any of them? said Major Whiteley.
I could not. They wore masks, and had hay tied over their clothes.
She told about her mother's defiance, about the scuffle, about the
firing of the shot. Then she stopped short. Of what happened afterwards
she had said nothing to the police-officer, but Major Whiteley
Did any of the men speak? Did you know their voices?
One spoke, she said, but I did not know the voice.
Did you get any chance of seeing their faces, or any of their
The man who fired the shot took off his mask before he left the
room, and I saw his face.
Ah! said Major Whiteley. And would you recognise him if you saw
He leaned forward eagerly as he asked the question. All depended on
Yes, said Mary. I should know him if I saw him again.
Major Whiteley leaned across to Mr. Chalmers, who sat beside him.
If you've got the right man, he whispered, we'll hang him on the
I've got the right man, sure enough, said Chalmers.
Miss Drennan, said Major Whiteley, I shall have eight men brought
into this room one after another, and I shall ask you to identify the
man who fired a shot at your mother, the man who removed his mask
before he left the room.
He rang the bell which stood on the table.
The sergeant opened the door, and stood at attention. Mr. Chalmers
gave his orders.
Bring the prisoners into the room one by one, he said, and stand
each man therehe pointed to a place opposite the windowso that
the light will fall full on his face.
Inspector Chalmers had not boasted foolishly when he said that he
had taken the right men. Acting on such knowledge as the police possess
in every country, he had arrested the leading members of the Sinn Fein
Club. Of two of them he was surer than he was of any of the others.
Murnihan was secretary of the club, and the most influential member of
it, Denis Ryan had gone about the town looking like a man stricken with
a deadly disease ever since the night of the murder. The lawyer who
employed him as a clerk complained that he seemed totally incapable of
doing his work. The police felt sure that either he or Murnihan fired
the shot; that both of them, and probably a dozen men besides, knew who
Six men were led into the office one after another. Mary Drennan
looked at each of them and shook her head. It came to Murnihan's turn.
He marched in defiantly, staring insolently at the police-officer and
at the magistrate.
He displayed no emotion when he saw Mary Drennan. She looked at him,
and once more shook her head.
Are you sure? said Chalmers. Quite sure?
I am sure, she said. He is not the man I saw.
Remove him, said Chalmers.
Murnihan stood erect for a moment before he turned to follow the
sergeant. With hand raised to the salute he made profession of the
faith that was in him:
Up the rebels! he said. Up Sinn Fein! God save Ireland!
Denis Ryan was led in and set in the appointed place. He stood there
trembling. His face was deadly pale. The fingers of his hands twitched.
His head was bowed. Only once did he raise his eyes and let them rest
for a moment on Mary's face. It was as if he was trying to convey some
message to her, to make her understand something which he dared not
She looked at him steadily. Her face had been white before. Now
colour, like a blush, covered her cheeks. Chalmers leaned forward
eagerly, waiting for her to speak or give some sign. Major Whiteley
tapped his fingers nervously on the table before him.
That is not the man, said Mary Drennan.
Look again, said Chalmers. Make no mistake.
She turned to him and spoke calmly, quietly:
I am quite certain. That is not the man.
Damn! said Chalmers. The girl has failed us, after all. Take him
Denis Ryan had covered his face with his hands when Mary spoke. He
turned to follow the sergeant from the room, a man bent and beaten down
with utter shame.
Stop! said Chalmers. He turned fiercely to Mary. Will you
swearwill you take your oath he is not the man?
I swear it, said Mary.
You're swearing to a lie, said Chalmers, and you know it.
Major Whiteley was cooler and more courteous.
Thank you, Miss Drennan, he said. We need not trouble you any
Mary Drennan rose, bowed to the two men, and left the room.
You may let those men go, Chalmers, said Major Whiteley quietly.
There's no evidence against them, and you can't convict them.
I must let them go, said Chalmers. But they're the men who were
there, and the last of them, Denis Ryan, fired the shot.
Mary Drennan never met her lover again, but she wrote to him once
before he left the country.
You see how I loved you, Denis. I gave you your life. I bought it
for you, and my soul was the price I paid for it when I swore to a lie
and was false to my mother's memory. I loved you that much, Denis, but
I shall never speak to you again.
IX. A BIRD IN HAND
Konrad Earl II. lost his crown and became a king in exile when
Megalia became a republic. He was the victim of an ordinary revolution
which took place in 1918, and was, therefore, in no way connected with
the great war. Konrad Karl was anxious that this fact should be widely
known. He did not wish to be mistaken for a member of the group of
royalties who came to grief through backing the Germanic powers.
Like many other dethroned kings he made his home in England. He
liked London life and prided himself on his mastery of the English
language, which he spoke fluently, using slang and colloquial phrases
whenever he could drag them in. He was an amiable and friendly young
man, very generous when he had any money and entirely free from that
pride and exclusiveness which is the fault of many European kings. He
would have been a popular member of English society if it had not been
for his connection with Madame Corinne Ypsilante, a lady of great
beauty but little reputation. The king, who was sincerely attached to
her, could never be induced to see that a lady of that kind must be
kept in the background. Indeed it would not have been easy to conceal
Madame Ypsilante. She was a lady who showed up wherever she went, and
she went everywhere with the king. English society could neither ignore
nor tolerate her. So English society, a little regretfully, dropped
King Konrad Karl.
He did not much regret the loss of social position. He and Madame
lived very comfortably in a suite of rooms at Beaufort's, which, as
everyone knows, is the most luxurious and most expensive hotel in
London. Their most intimate friend was Mr. Michael Gorman, M.P. for
Upper Offaly. He was a broad-minded man with no prejudice against
ladies like Madame Ypsilante. He had a knowledge of the by-ways of
finance which made him very useful to the king; for Konrad Karl, though
he lived in Beaufort's Hotel, was by no means a rich man. The Crown
revenues of Megalia, never very large, were seized by the Republic at
the time of the revolution, and the king had no private fortune. He
succeeded in carrying off the Crown jewels when he left the country;
but his departure was so hurried that he carried off nothing else. His
tastes were expensive, and Madame Ypsilante was a lady of lavish
habits. The Crown jewels of Megalia did not last long. It was
absolutely necessary for the king to earn, or otherwise acquire, money
from time to time, and Michael Gorman was as good as any man in London
at getting money in irregular ways.
It was Gorman, for instance, who started the Near Eastern Wine
Growers' Association. It prospered for a time because it was the only
limited liability company which had a king on its Board of Directors.
It failed in the end because the wine was so bad that nobody could
drink it. It was Gorman who negotiated the sale of the Island of
Salissa to a wealthy American. Madame Ypsilante got her famous pearl
necklace out of the price of the island. It was partly because the
necklace was very expensive that King Konrad Karl found himself short
of money again within a year of the sale of the island. The moment was
a particularly unfortunate one. Owing to the war it was impossible to
start companies or sell islands.
Things came to a crisis when Emile, the Bond Street dressmaker,
refused to supply Madame with an evening gown which she particularly
wanted. It was a handsome garment, and Madame was ready to promise to
pay £100 for it. Mr. Levinson, the business manager of Emile's, said
that further credit was impossible, when Madame's bill already amounted
to £680. His position was, perhaps, reasonable. It was certainly
annoying. Madame, after a disagreeable interview with him, returned to
Beaufort's Hotel in a very bad temper.
Gorman was sitting with the king when she stormed into the room.
Hers was one of those simple untutored natures which make little
attempt to conceal emotion. She flung her muff into a corner of the
room. She tore the sable stole from her shoulders and sent it whirling
towards the fireplace. Gorman was only just in time to save it from
being burnt. She dragged a long pin from her hat and brandished it as
if it had been a dagger.
Konrad, she said, I demand that at once the swine-dog be killed
and cut into small bits by the knives of executioners.
There was a large china jar standing on the floor near the
fireplace, one of those ornaments which give their tone of
sumptuousness to the rooms in Beaufort's Hotel. Madame rushed at it and
kicked it. When it broke she trampled on the pieces. She probably
wished to show the size of the bits into which the business manager of
Emile's ought to be minced.
Gorman sought a position of safety behind a large table. He had once
before seen Madame deeply moved and he felt nervous. The king, who was
accustomed to her ways, spoke soothingly.
My beloved Corinne, he said, who is he, this pig? Furnish me
forthwith by return with an advice note of the name of the defendant.
The king's business and legal experience had taught him some useful
phrases, which he liked to air when he could; but his real mastery of
the English language was best displayed by his use of current slang.
We shall at once, he went on, put him up the wind, or is it down
the wind? Tell me, Gorman. No. Do not tell me. I have it. We will put
the wind up him.
If possible, said Gorman.
Madame turned on him.
Possible! she said. It is possible to kill a rat. Possible! Is
not Konrad a king?
Even kings can't cut people up in that sort of way, said Gorman,
especially just now when the world is being made safe for democracy.
Still if you tell us who the man is we'll do what we can to him.
He is a toad, an ape, a cur-cat with mange, that manager of Emile,
said Madame. He said to me 'no, I make no evening gown for Madame.'
Wants to be paid, I suppose, said Gorman. They sometimes do.
Alas, Corinne, said the king, and if I give him a cheque the bank
will say 'Prefer it in a drawer.' They said it last time. Or perhaps it
was 'Refer it to a drawer.' I do not remember. But that is what the
bank will do. Gorman, my friend, it is as the English say all O.K. No,
that is what it is not. It is U.P. Well. I have lived. I am a King.
There is always poison. I can die. Corinne, farewell.
The king drew himself up to his full height, some five foot six, and
Don't talk rot, said Gorman. You are not at the end of your
The king maintained his heroic pose for a minute. Then he sat down
on a deep chair and sank back among the cushions.
Gorman, he said, you are right. It is rot, what you call dry rot,
to die. And there is more tether, perhaps. You say so, and I trust you,
my friend. But where is it, the tether beyond the end?
Madame, having relieved her feelings by breaking the china jar to
bits, suddenly became gentle and pathetic. She flung herself on to the
floor at Gorman's feet and clasped his knees.
You are our friend, she said, now and always. Oh Gorman, Sir
Gorman, M.P., drag out more tether so that my Konrad does not die.
Gorman disliked emotional scenes very much. He persuaded Madame to
sit on a chair instead of the floor. He handed her a cigarette. The
king, who understood her thoroughly, sent for some liqueur brandy and
filled a glass for her.
Now, he said. Trot up, cough out, tell on, Gorman. Where is the
tether which has no end? How am I to raise the dollars, shekels, oof?
You have a plan, Gorman. Make it work.
My plan, said Gorman, ought to work. I don't say it's a gold
mine, but there's certainly money in it I came across a man yesterday
called Bilkins, who's made a pile, a very nice six figure pile out of
eggscontracts, you know, war prices, food control and all the usual
Alas, said the king, I have no eggs, not one. I cannot ramp.
I don't expect you to try, said Gorman. As a matter of fact I
don't think the thing could be done twice. Bilkins only just pulled it
off. My idea
I see it, said Madame. We invite the excellent Bilkins to dinner.
We are gay. He and we. There is a little game with cards. Konrad and I
are more than a match for Bilkins. That is it, Gorman. It goes.
That's not it in the least, said Gorman. Bilkins isn't that kind
of man at all. He's a rabid teetotaller for one thing, and he's
extremely religious. He wouldn't play for anything bigger than a
sixpence, and you'd spend a year taking a ten-pound note off him.
Hell and the devil, Gorman, said the king, if I have no eggs to
ramp and if Bilkins will not play
Wait a minute, said Gorman, I told you that Bilkins' egg racket
was a bit shady. He wasn't actually prosecuted; but his character wants
white-washing badly, and the man knows it.
The king sighed heavily.
Alas, Gorman, he said, it would be of no use for us to wash
Bilkins. Corinne and I, if we tried to washwhite, that is, I should
say, to whitewash, the man afterwards would be only more black. We are
not respectable, Corinne and I. It is no use for Bilkins to come to
That's so, said Gorman. I don't suppose a certificate from me
would be much good either. Bilkins' own ideahe feels his position a
good dealis that if he could get a titleknighthood for instanceor
even an O.B.E., it would set him up again; but they won't give him a
thing. He has paid handsomely into the best advertised charities and
showed me the receipts himselfand handed over £10,000 to the party
funds, giving £5,000 to each party to make sure; and now he feels he's
been swindled. They won't do itcan't, I suppose. The eggs were too
I should not care, said the king, if all the eggs were fishes. If
I were a party and could get £5,000. But I am not a party, Gorman, I am
Exactly, said Gorman, and it's kings who give those things, the
things Bilkins wants. Isn't there a Megalian OrderPink Vulture or
Gorman, you have hit it, said the king delightedly. You have hit
the eye of the bull, and the head of the nail. I can give an order, I
can say 'Bilkins, you are Grand Knight of the Order of the Pink Vulture
of Megalia, First Class.' Gorman, it is done. I give. Bilkins pays. The
world admires the honourableness of the Right Honourable Sir Bilkins.
His character is washed white. Ah, Corinne, my beloved, you shall spit
in the face of the manager of Emile's. I said I cannot ramp. I have no
eggs. I was wrong. The Vulture of Megalia lays an egg for Bilkins.
You've got the idea, said Gorman. But we can't rush the thing.
Your Pink Vulture is all right, of course. I'm not saying anything
against it. But most people in this country have never heard of it, and
consequently it wouldn't be of much use to a man of Bilkin's position.
The first thing we've got to do is to advertise the fowl; get it
fluttering before the public eye. If you leave that part to me I'll
manage it all right. I've been connected with the press far years.
Three days later it was announced in most of the London papers that
the King of Megalia had bestowed the Order of the Pink Vulture on Sir
Bland Potterton, His Majesty's Minister for Balkan Affairs, in
recognition of his services to the Allied cause in the Near East. Sir
Bland Potterton was in Roumania when the announcement appeared and he
did not hear of his new honour for nearly three weeks. When he did hear
of it he refused it curtly.
In the meanwhile the Order was bestowed on two Brigadier Generals
and three Colonels, all on active service in remote parts of the world.
Little pictures of the star and ribbon of the Order appeared in the
back pages of illustrated papers, and there were short articles in the
Sunday papers which gave a history of the Order, describing it as the
most ancient in Europe, and quoting the names of eminent men who had
won the ribbon of the Order in times past. The Duke of Wellington, Lord
Nelson, William the Silent, Galileo, Christopher Columbus, and the
historian Gibbon appeared on the list. The Order was next bestowed on
an Admiral, who held a command in the South Pacific, and on M.
After that Gorman dined with the King.
The dinner, as is always the case in Beaufort's Hotel, was
excellent. The wine was good. Madame Ypsilante wore a dress which, as
she explained, was more than three months old.
Emile, it appeared, was still pressing for payment of the bill and
refused to supply any more clothes. However, neither age nor custom had
staled the splendour of the purple velvet gown and the
jewelleryMadame Ypsilante always wore a great deal of jewellerywas
The king seemed a little uneasy, and after dinner spoke to Gorman
about the Megalian Order of the Pink Vulture.
You are magnificent, Gorman, he said, and your English press! Ah,
my friend, if you had been Prime Minister in Megalia, and if there had
been newspapers, I might to-day be sitting on the throne, though I do
not want to, not at all. The throne of Megalia is what you call a hot
spot. But my friend is it wise? There must be someone who knows that
the Pink Vulture of Megalia is not an antique. It is, as the English
say, mid-Victorian. 1865, Gorman. That is the date; and someone will
I daresay, said Gorman, that there may be two or three people who
know; but they haven't opened their mouths so far and before they do we
ought to have Bilkins' checque safe.
How much? said Madame. That is the thing which matters.
After he's read the list of distinguished men who held the order in
the past and digested the names of all the generals and people who've
just been given it, we may fairly expect £5,000. We'll screw him up a
bit if we can, but we won't take a penny less. Considering the row
there'll be afterwards, when Bilkins finds out, we ought to get
£10,000. It will be most unpleasant, and it's bound to come. Most of
the others will refuse the Order as soon as they hear they've been
given it, and Bilkins will storm horribly and say he has been swindled,
not that there is any harm in swindling Bilkins. After that egg racket
of his he deserves to be swindled. Still it won't be nice to have to
listen to him.
Bah! said Madame, we shall have the cash.
And it was not I, said the king, who said that the Duke of
Wellington wore the Pink Vulture. It was not Corinne. It was not you,
Gorman, It was the newspapers. When Bilkins come to us we say 'Bah! Go
to The Times, Sir Bilkins, go to The Daily Mail.' There
is no more for Bilkins to say then.
One comfort, said Gorman, is that he can't take a legal action of
Their fears were, as it turned out, unfounded. Bilkins, having paid,
not £5,000 but £6,000, for the Megalian Order, was not anxious to
advertise the fact that he had made a bad bargain. Indeed he may be
said to have got good value for his money. He has not many
opportunities of wearing the ribbon and the star; but he describes
himself on his visiting cards and at the head of his business note
paper as Sir Timothy Bilkins, K.C.O.P.V.M. Nobody knows what the
letters stand for, and it is generally believed that Bilkins has been
knighted in the regular way for services rendered to the country during
the war. The few who remember his deal in eggs are forced to suppose
that the stories told about that business at the time were slander.
Lady Bilkins, who was present at the ceremony of in-vesture, often
talks of the dear King and Queen of Megalia. Madame Ypsilante can,
when she chooses, look quite like a real queen.
X. THE EMERALD PENDANT
Even as a schoolboy, Bland-Potterton was fussy and self-important At
the universityBalliol was his collegehe was regarded as a coming
man, likely to make his mark in the world. This made him more fussy and
more self-important. When he became a recognised authority on Near
Eastern affairs he became pompous and more fussy than ever. His
knighthood, granted in 1918, and an inevitable increase in waist
measurement emphasised his pompousness without diminishing his
fussiness. When the craze for creating new departments of state was at
its height, Bland-Potterton, then Sir Bartholomew, was made Head of the
Ministry for Balkan Affairs. It was generally felt that the right man
had been put into the right place. Sir Bartholomew looked like a
Minister, talked like a Minister, and, what is more important, felt
like a Minister. Indeed he felt like a Cabinet Minister, though he had
not yet obtained that rank. Sir Bartholomew's return from Bournmania
was duly advertised in the newspapers. Paragraphs appeared every day
for a week hinting at a diplomatic coup which would affect the balance
of power in the Balkans and materially shorten the war. Gorman, who
knew Sir Bartholomew well, found a good deal of entertainment in the
newspaper paragraphs. He had been a journalist himself for many years.
He understood just whom the paragraphs came from and how they got into
print. He was a little surprised, but greatly interested, when he
received a note from Sir Bartholomew.
My dear Mr. Gorman, he read, can you make it convenient to lunch
with me one day next week? Shall we say in my room in the office of the
Ministrythe Feodora Hotel, Piccadillyat 1.30 p.m. There is a matter
of some importanceof considerable national importanceabout which we
are most anxious to obtain your advice and your help. Will you fix the
earliest possible day? The condition of the Near East demandsurgently
demandsour attention. I am, my dear Mr. Gorman, yours, etc....
Gorman without hesitation fixed Monday, which is the earliest day in
any week except Sunday, and he did not suppose that the offices of the
Ministry of Balkan Affairs would be open on Sunday.
It is not true, though it is frequently said, that Sir Bartholomew
retained the services of the chef of the Feodora Hotel when he took
over the building for the use of his Ministry. It is well known that
Sir Bartholomewin his zeal for the public serviceoften lunched in
his office and sometimes invited men whom he wanted to see on business,
to lunch with him. They reported that the meals they ate were
uncommonly good, as the meals of a Minister of State certainly ought to
be. It was no doubt in this way that the slanderous story about the
chef arose and gained currency. Gorman did not believe it, because he
knew that the Feodora chef had gone to Beaufort's Hotel when the other
was taken over by the Government. But Gorman fully expected a good
luncheon, nicely served in one of the five rooms set apart for Sir
Bartholomew's use in the hotel.
He was not disappointed. The sole was all that anyone could ask. The
salmi which followed it was good, and even the Feodora chef could not
have sent up a better rum omelette.
Sir Bartholomew was wearing a canary-coloured waistcoat with
It seemed to Gorman that the expanse of yellow broadened as luncheon
went on. Perhaps it actually did. Perhaps an atmosphere of illusion was
created by the port which followed an excellent bottle of sauterne.
Yellow is a cheerful colour, and Sir Bartholomew's waistcoat increased
the vague feeling of hopeful well-being which the luncheon produced.
Affairs in the Near East, said Sir Bartholomew, are at present in
a critical position.
Always are, aren't they? said Gorman. Some affairs are like that,
Irish affairs for instance.
Sir Bartholomew frowned slightly. He hated levity. Then the good
wine triumphing over the dignity of the bureaucrat, he smiled again.
You Irishmen! he said. No subject is serious for you. That is
your great charm. But I assure you, Mr. Gorman, that we are at this
moment passing through a crisis.
If there's anything I can do to help you said Gorman. A crisis
is nothing to me. I have lived all my life in the middle of one. That's
the worst of Ireland. Crisis is her normal condition.
I think Sir Bartholomew lowered his voice although there was
no one in the room to overhear him. I think, Mr. Gorman, that you are
acquainted with the present King of Megalia.
If you mean Konrad Karl, said Gorman, I should call him the late
king. They had a revolution there, you know, and hunted him out, I
believe Megalia is a republic now.
None of the Great Powers, said Sir Bartholomew, has ever
recognised the Republic of Megalia.
He spoke as if what he said disposed of the Megalians finally. The
front of his yellow waistcoat expanded when he mentioned the Great
Powers. This was only proper. A man who speaks with authority about
Great Powers ought to swell a little.
The Megalian people, he went on, have hitherto preserved a strict
So the king gave me to understand, said Gorman, He says his late
subjects go about and plunder their neighbours impartially. They don't
mind a bit which side anybody is on so long as there is a decent chance
The Megalians, said Sir Bartholomew, are a fighting race, and in
the critical position of Balkan Affairsa delicate equipoise He
seemed taken with the phrase for he repeated itA remarkably delicate
equipoisethe intervention of the Megalian Army would turn the scale
andI feel certaindecide the issue. All that is required to secure
the action of the Megalians is the presence in the country of a leader,
someone whom the people know and recognise, someone who can appeal to
the traditional loyalty of a chivalrous race, in short
You can't be thinking of the late king? said Gorman. They're not
the least loyal to him. They deposed him, you know. In fact by his
accountI wasn't there myself at the timebut he told me that they
tried to hang him. He says that if they ever catch him they certainly
will hang him. He doesn't seem to have hit it off with them.
Sir Bartholomew waved these considerations aside.
An emotional and excitable people, he said, but, believe me, Mr.
Gorman, warm-hearted, and capable of devotion to a trusted leader. They
will rally round the king, if
I'm not at all sure, said Gorman, that the king will care about
going there to be rallied round. It's a risk, whatever you say.
I appreciate that point, said Sir Bartholomew. Indeed it is just
because I appreciate it so fully that I am asking for your advice and
help, Mr. Gorman. You know the king. You are, I may say, his friend.
Pretty nearly the only friend he has, said Gorman.
Exactly. Now I, unfortunatelyI fear that the king rather dislikes
You weren't at all civil to him when he offered you the Order of
the Pink Vulture; but I don't think he has any grudge against you on
that account. He's not the sort of man who bears malice. The real
question iswhat is the king to get out of it? What are you offering
The Allies, said Sir Bartholomew, would recognise him as the King
of Megalia, anderof course, support him.
I don't think he'd thank you for that, said Gorman, but you can
try him if you like.
Sir Bartholomew, on reflection, was inclined to agree with Gorman.
Mere recognition, though agreeable to any king, is unsubstantial, and
the support suggested was evidently doubtful.
What else? He spoke in a very confidential tone. What other
inducement would you suggest our offering? We are prepared to go a long
wayto do a good deal
Unfortunately for you, said Gorman, the king is pretty well off
at present. He got £6,000 three weeks ago out of Bilkinsthe man who
ran the egg swindleand until that's spent he won't feel the need of
money. If you could wait six weeksI'm sure he'll be on the rocks
again in six weeksand then offer a few thousand
But we can't wait, said Sir Bartholomew. Affairs in the Near East
are most critical. Unless the Megalian Army acts at once
In that case, said Gorman, the only thing for you to do is to try
That woman! said Sir Bartholomew. I really cannotYou must
see, Mr. Gorman, that for a man in my position
Is there a Lady Bland-Potterton? said Gorman. I didn't know.
I'm not married, said Sir Bartholomew. When I speak of my
positionI mean my position as a member of the Government
Madame has immense influence with the king, said Gorman.
Yes. Yes. But the womantheerlady has no recognised status.
Just at present, said Gorman, she is tremendously keen on
emeralds. She has got a new evening dress from Emile and there's
nothing she wants more than an emerald pendant to wear with it. I'm
sure she'd do her best to persuade the king to go back to Megalia
But I don't think said Sir Bartholomew. Really, Mr. Gorman
I'm not suggesting that you should pay for it yourself, said
Gorman. Charge it up against the Civil List or the Secret Service
Fund, or work it in under 'Advances to our Allies.' There must be some
way of doing it, and I really think it's your best chance.
Sir Bartholomew talked for nearly an hour. He explained several
times that it was totally impossible for him to negotiate with Madame
Ypsilante. The idea of bribing her with an emerald pendant shocked him
profoundly. But he was bent on getting King Konrad Karl to go back to
Megalia. That seemed to him a matter of supreme importance for England,
for Europe and the world. In the end, after a great deal of
consultation, a plan suggested itself. Madame should have her emeralds
sent to her anonymously. Gorman undertook to explain to her that she
was expected, by way of payment for the emeralds, to persuade the king
to go back to Megalia and once more occupy the throne. Sir Bartholomew
Bland-Potterton would appear at the last moment as the accredited
representative of the Allied Governments, and formally lay before the
king the proposal for the immediate mobilisation of the Megallian Army.
I shall have a lot of work and worry, said Gorman, and I'm not
asking anything for myself; but if the thing comes off
You can command the gratitude of the Cabinet, said Sir
Bartholomew, and anything they can do for youan O.B.E., now, or even
No thank you, said Gorman, but if you could see your way to
starting a few munition works in Upper Offaly, my constituency, you
know. The people are getting discontented, and I'm not at all sure that
they'll return me at the next election unless something is done for
You shall have an aeroplane factory, said Sir Bartholomew, two in
fact. I think I may safely promise twoand shellswould your people
care for making shells?
The plan worked out exceedingly well. The pendant which Madame
Ypsilante received was very handsome. It contained fourteen stones of
unusual size set in circles of small diamonds. She was delighted, and
thoroughly understood what was expected of her. A Government engineer
went down to Upper Offaly, and secured, at enormous expense, sites for
three large factories. The men who leased the land were greatly
pleased, everyone else looked forward to a period of employment at very
high wages, and Gorman became very popular even among the extreme Sinn
Feiners. Sir Bartholomew Bland-Potterton went about London, purring
with satisfaction like a large cat, and promising sensational events in
the Near East which would rapidly bring the war to an end. Only King
Konrad Karl was a little sad.
Gorman, my friend, he said, I go back to that thrice damned
country and I die. They will hang me by the neck until I am dead as a
They may not, said Gorman. You can't be certain.
You do not know Megalia, said the king. It is sure, Gorman, what
you would call a dead shirt. But Corinne, my beloved Corinne, says 'Go.
Be a king once more.' And II am a blackguard, Gorman. I know it. I am
not respectable. I know it. But I am a lover. I am capable of a great
passion. I wave my hand. I smile. I kiss Corinne. I face the tune of
the band. I say 'Behold, damn it, and Great Scott!at the bidding of
Corinne, I die.'
If I were you, said Gorman, I'd conscript every able-bodied man
in the country directly I got there and put the entire lot into a front
line trench. There won't be anyone left to assassinate you then.
Alas! There are the Generals and the Staff. It is not possible,
Gorman, even in Megalia, to put the Staff into a trench, and that is
enough. One General only and his Staff. They come to the palace. They
say 'In the name of the Republic, so that the world may be safe for
democracy' and then! There is a rope. There is a flag staff. I
float in the air. They cheer. I am dead. I know it. But it is for
It was in this mood of chivalrous high romance that the king
received Sir Bartholomew Bland-Potterton. Gorman was present during the
interview. He had made a special effort, postponing an important
engagement, in order to hear what was said. He expected to be
interested and amused. He was not disappointed.
Sir Bartholomew Bland-Potterton was at his very best. He made a long
speech about the sacred cause of European civilisation, and the
supremely important part which the King of Megalia was called upon to
play in securing victory and lasting peace. He also talked about the
rights of small nationalities. King Konrad Karl rose to the same level
of lofty sentiment in his reply. He went further than Sir Bartholomew
for he talked about democracy in terms which were affectionate, a
rather surprising thing for a monarch whose power, when he had it, was
supposed to be absolute.
I go, he said. If necessary I offer up myself as a fatted calf, a
sacrifice, a burnt ewe lamb upon the altar of liberty. I say to the
peopleto my people 'Damn it, cut off my head.' It's what they will
Dear me, said Sir Bartholomew. Dear me. I trust not. I hope not.
You will have the support, the moral support, of all the Allies. I
should be sorry to thinkwe should all be sorry
The king, who was standing in the middle of the hearthrug, struck a
fine attitude, laying his hand on his breast.
It will be as I say, he said. Gorman knows. Corinne, though she
says 'No, no, never,' she knows. The people of Megalia, what are they?
I will tell you. Butchers and pigs. Pork butchers. To them it is sport
to kill a king. But you say 'Go,' and Gorman says 'Go.' And the cause
of Europe says 'Go.' And Corinne she also. Good. The Prime Minister of
Megalia trots out his hatchet. I say 'By Jove, here is my neck.
Sir Bartholomew Bland-Pottertan was greatly affected. He even
promised that a British submarine would patrol the Megalian coast with
a view to securing the king's safety. He might perhaps have gone on to
offer a squadron of aeroplanes by way of body-guard, but while he was
speaking, Madame burst into the room.
She was evidently highly excited. Her face, beneath its coating of
powder, was flushed. Her eyes were unusually bright. Her haira most
unusual thing with herappeared to be coming down. She rushed straight
to the king and flung her arms round his neck.
Konrad, she said, my Konrad. You shall not go to Megalia. Never,
never will I say 'Be a King.' Never shall you live with those so
barbarous people. I said 'Go.' I admit it. I was wrong, my Konrad.
She released the king from her embrace, fumbled in her handbag and
drew out a small leather case. She opened it, took out a magnificent
looking pendant. She flung it on the ground and trampled on it. Gorman
stepped forward to rescue the emeralds.
Don't do that, he said. Hang it all! Don't. Give the thing back
if you like, but don't destroy it. Those stones must be immensely
Valuable! Madame's voice rose to a shriek. What is valuable
compared to the safety of my Konrad? Valuable? They are worth ten
pounds. Ten pounds, Gorman! I took them to Goldstein to-day. He knows
jewels, that Goldstein. He is expert and he said 'They are shams. They
are worthat most ten pounds.'
Gorman stared for a moment at the stones which lay on the floor in
their crushed setting. Then he turned to Sir Bartholomew.
You don't mean to say, he said, that you were such a dd ass
as to send Madame sham stones?
Sir Bartholomew's face was a sufficient answer to the question.
Gorman took him by the arm and led him out of the room without a word.
You'd better go home, he said. Madame Ypsilante is violent when
roused, and it is not safe for you to stay. But how could you have been
such an idiot!
I never thought of her having the stones valued, said Sir
Of course she had them valued, said Gorman. Anyone else in the
world would have known that she'd be sure to have them valued. Of all
the besotted imbecilesand they call you a statesman!
Sir Bartholomew, having got safely into the street, began to recover
a little, and attempted a defence of himself.
But, he said, a pendant like thatemeralds of that size are
enormously expensive. The Government would not have sanctioned it.
After all, Mr. Gorman, we are bound to be particularly careful about
the expenditure of public funds. It is one of the proudest traditions
of British statesmanship that it is scrupulously honourable even to the
point of being niggardly in sanctioning the expenditure of the
Good Lord! said Gorman. I didn't thinkI really did not think
that I could be surprised by anything in politicsBut when you talk to
meYou oughtn't to do it, Potterton. You really ought not. Public
funds. Tax-payers' money. Scrupulously honourable, andniggardly. Good
XI. SETTLED OUT OF COURT
There are many solicitors in London who make larger incomes than Mr.
Dane-Latimer, though he does very well and pays a considerable sum
every year by way of super-tax. There are certainly solicitors with
firmly established family practices, whose position is more secure than
Mr. Dane-Latimer's. And there are some whose reputation stands higher
in legal circles. But there is probably no solicitor whose name is
better known all over the British Isles than Mr. Dane-Latimer's. He has
been fortunate enough to become a kind of specialist in Society
cases. No divorce suit can be regarded as really fashionable unless Mr.
Dane-Latimer is acting in it for plaintiff, defendant, or
co-respondent. A politician who has been libelled goes to Mr.
Dane-Latimer for advice. An actress with a hopeful breach of promise
case takes the incriminating letters to Mr. Dane-Latimer. He knows the
facts of nearly every exciting scandal. He can fill in the gaps which
the newspapers necessarily leave even in stories which spread
themselves over columns of print. What is still better, he can tell
stories which never get into the papers at all, the stories of cases so
thrilling that the people concerned settle them out of court.
It will easily be understood that Mr. Dane-Latimer is an interesting
man to meet and that a good many people welcome the chance of a talk
Gorman, who has a cultivated taste for gossip, was greatly pleased
when Dane-Latimer sat down beside him one day in the smoking-room of
his club. It was two o'clock, an hour at which the smoking-room is full
of men who have lunched. Gorman knew that Dane-Latimer would not talk
in an interesting way before a large audience, but he hoped to be able
to keep him until most of the other men had left. He beckoned to the
waitress and ordered two coffees and two liqueur brandies. Then he set
himself to be as agreeable as possible to Dane-Latimer.
Haven't seen you for a long time, he said. What have you been
doing? Had the flu?
Flu! No. Infernally busy, that's all.
Really, said Gorman. I should have thought the present slump
would have meant rather a slack time for you. PeopleI mean the sort
of people whose affairs you managecan't be going it in quite the old
way, at all events not to the same extent.
Dane-Latimer poured half his brandy into his coffee cup and smiled.
Gorman, who felt it necessary to keep the conversation going, wandered
But perhaps they are. After all, these war marriages must lead to a
good many divorces, though we don't read about them as much as we used
to. But I dare say they go on just the same and you have plenty to do.
Dane-Latimer grinned. He beckoned to the waitress and ordered two
more brandies. Gorman talked on. One after another the men in the
smoking-room got up and went away. At three o'clock there was no one
left within earshot of Gorman and Dane-Latimer. A couple of Heads of
Government Departments and a Staff Officer still sat on at the far end
of the room, but they were busy with a conversation of their own about
a new kind of self-starter for motor cars. Dane-Latimer began to talk
The fact is, he said, I shouldn't have been here to-dayI
certainly shouldn't be sitting smoking at this hour if I hadn't wanted
to talk to you.
Gorman chuckled pleasantly. He felt that something interesting was
I've rather a queer case on hand, said Dane-Latimer, and some
friends of yours are mixed up in it, at least I think I'm right in
saying that that picturesque blackguard Konrad Karl of Megalia is a
friend of yours.
I hope he's not the co-respondent, said Gorman.
No. No. It's nothing of that sort. In fact, strictly speaking, he's
not in it at all. No legal liability. The action threatened is against
Don't say shop lifting, said Gorman. I've always been afraid
she's take to that sooner or later. Not that she's a dishonest woman.
Don't think that. It's simply that she can't understand, is
constitutionally incapable of seeing any reason why she shouldn't have
anything she wants.
You may make your mind easy, said Dane-Latimer. It's not
shop-lifting. In fact it isn't anything that would be called really
That surprises me. I should hardly have thought Madame could have
avoidedbut go on.
You know Scarsby? said Dane-Latimer.
I know a Mrs. Scarsby, a woman who advertises herself and her
parties and pushes hard to get into the smartest set. She's invited me
to one of her shows next week. Very seldom does now, though I used to
go there pretty often. She has rather soared lately, higher circles
than those I move in.
That's the wife of the man I mean.
Never knew she had a husband, said Gorman. She keeps him very
dark. But that sort of woman often keeps her husband in the background.
I suppose he exists simply to earn what she spends.
That's it. He's a dentist. I rather wonder you haven't heard of
him. He's quite at the top of the tree; the sort of dentist who charges
two guineas for looking at your front tooth and an extra guinea if he
tells you there's a hole in it.
I expect he needs it all, said Gorman, to keep Mrs. Searsby
going. But what the devil has he got to do with Madame Ypsilante. I
can't imagine her compromising herself with a man whose own wife is
ashamed to produce him.
Dane-Latimer smiled. I told you it was nothing of that sort, he
said. In fact it's quite the opposite. Madame went to him as a patient
in the ordinary way, and he started to put a gold filling into one of
her teeth. She was infernally nervous and made him swear beforehand
that he wouldn't hurt her. She brought Konrad Karl with her and he held
one of her hands. There was a sort of nurse, a woman whom Scarsby
always has on the premises, who held her other hand. I mention this to
show you that there were plenty of witnesses present, and it won't be
any use denying the facts. Well, Scarsby went to work in the usual way
with one of those infernal drill things which they work with their
feet. He had her right back in the chair and was standing more or less
in front of her. He says he's perfectly certain he didn't hurt her in
the least, but I think he must have got down to a nerve or something
without knowing it. Anyhow Madameshe couldn't use her hands you
knowgave a sort of twist, got her foot against his chest and kicked
him clean across the room.
I'd give five pounds to have been there, said Gorman.
It must have been a funny sight. Scarsby clutched at everything as
he passed. He brought down the drilling machine and a table covered
with instruments in his fall. He strained his wrist and now he wants to
take an action for a thousand pounds damages against Madame.
Silly ass, said Gorman. He might just as well take an action
against me for a million. Madame hasn't got a thousand pence in the
So I thought, said Dane-Latimer, and so I told him. As a matter
of fact I happen to know that Madame is pretty heavily in debt.
Besides, said Gorman. He richly deserved what he got. Any man who
is fool enough to go monkeying about with Madame Ypsilante's
teethyou've seen her, I suppose.
Oh, yes. Several times.
Well then you can guess the sort of woman she is. And anyone who
had ever looked at her eyes would know. I'd just as soon twist a
tiger's tail as try to drill a hole in one of Madame Ypsilante's teeth.
Scarsby must have known there'd be trouble.
I'm afraid the judge won't take that view, said Dane-Latimer,
He ought to call it justifiable self-defence. He will too if he's
ever had one of those drills in his own mouth.
As a lawyer, said Dane-Latimer, I'd like to see this action
fought out. I don't remember a case quite like it, and it would be
exceedingly interesting to see what view the Court would take. But of
course I'm bound to work for my client's interest, and I'm advising
Scarsby to settle it if he can. He's in a vile temper and there's no
doubt he really is losing money through not being able to work with his
strained wrist. Still, if Madame, or the king on her behalf, would make
any sort of offerShe may not have any money, Gorman, but everybody
knows she has jewellery.
Do you really think, said Gorman, that Madame will sell her
pearls to satisfy the claims of a dentist who, so far as I can make
out, didn't even finish stopping her tooth for her?
The law might make her.
The law couldn't, said Gorman. You know perfectly well that if
the law tried she'd simply say that her jewellery belonged to King
Konrad and you've no kind of claim on him.
That's so, said Dane-Latimer. All the same it won't be very nice
if the case comes into court. Madame had far better settle it. Just
think of the newspapers. They'll crack silly jokes about it for weeks
and there'll be pictures of Madame in most undignified attitudes. She
won't like it.
I see that, said Gorman. And of course Konrad Karl will be
dragged in and made to look like a fool.
Kings of all people, said Dane-Latimer, can't afford to be
laughed at. It doesn't do a king any real harm if he's hated, but if
once he becomes comic he's done.
Gorman thought the matter over for a minute or two.
I'll tell you what, he said at last. You hold the dentist in play
for a day or two and I'll see what I can do. There'll be no money. I
warn you fairly of that. You won't even get the amount of your own bill
unless Scarsby pays it; but I may be able to fix things up.
It was not very easy for Gorman to deal with Madame Ypsilante. Her
point was that Scarsby had deliberately inflicted frightful pain on
her, breaking his plighted word and taking advantage of her helpless
He is a devil, that man, she said. Never, never in life has there
been any such devil. I did right to kick him. It would be more right to
kick his mouth. But I am not a dancer. I cannot kick so high.
Corinne, said the king. You have suffered. He has suffered. It
is, as the English say in the game of golf 'lie as you like.' Let us
forgive and regret.
I do not regret, said Madame, except that I did not kick with
both feet. I do not regret, and I will not forgive.
The trouble is, said Gorman, that the dentist won't forgive
either. He's talking of a thousand pounds damage.
Madame's face softened.
If he will pay a thousand pounds she said. It is not much. It
is not enough. Still, if he pays at once
You've got it wrong, said Gorman. He thinks you ought to pay.
He's going to law about it.
Law! said Madame. Pouf! What is your law? I spit at it. It is to
laugh at, the law.
The king took a different view. He knew by painful experience
something about law, chiefly that part of the law which deals with the
relations of creditor and debtor. He was seriously alarmed at what
Alas, Corinne, he said, in Megalia, yes. But in England, no. The
English law is to me a black beast. With the law I am always the
escaping goat who does not escape. Gorman, I love your England. But
there is, as you say, a shift in the flute. In England there is too
much law. Do not, do not let the dentist go to law. Rather would I
I will not pay, said Madame.
Corinne, said the king reproachfully, would I ask it? No. But if
the dentist seeks revenge I will submit. He may kick me.
That's rot of course, said Gorman. It wouldn't be the slightest
satisfaction to Scarsby to kick you. What I was going to suggest
Good! said the king. Right-O! O.K.! Put it there. You suggest.
Always, Gorman, you suggest, and when you suggest, it is all over
except to shout.
I don't know about that, said Gorman. My plan may not work, and
anyway you won't like it. It's not an agreeable plan at all. The only
thing to be said for it is that it's better than paying or having any
more kicking. You'll have to put yourself in my hands absolutely.
Gorman, my friend, said the king, I go in your hands. In both
hands or in one hand. Rather than be plaintiff-defendant I say,
'Gorman, I will go in your pocket.'
In your hands, said Madame, or in your arms. Sir Gorman, I trust
you. I give you my Konrad into your hands. I fling myself into your
arms if you wish it.
I don't wish it in the least, said Gorman. In fact it will
complicate things horribly if you do.
Three days later Gorman called on Dane-Latimer at his office.
I think, he said, that I've got that little trouble between
Madame Ypsilante and the dentist settled up all right.
Are you sure? said Dane-Latimer. Scarsby is still in a furious
temper. At least he was the day before yesterday. I haven't seen him
You won't see him again, said Gorman. He has completely climbed
How the deuce did you manage it?
Gorman drew a heavy square envelope from his breast pocket and
handed it to Dane-Latimer.
That's for you, he said, and if you really want to understand how
the case was settled you'd better accept the invitation and come with
Dane-Latimore opened the envelope and drew out a large white card
with gilt edges and nicely rounded corners.
10 Beaulieu Gardens, S.W. he read. Mrs. J. de Montford Scarsby.
At Home, Thursday, June 24, 9 to 11. To have the honour of meeting His
Majesty the King of Megalia. R.S.V.P.
The king, said Gorman, is going in his uniform as Field Marshal
of the Megalian Army. It took me half an hour to persuade him to do
that, and I don't wonder. It's a most striking costumelight blue silk
blouse, black velvet gold-embroidered waistcoat, white corded breeches,
immense patent leather boots, a gold chain as thick as a cable of a
small yacht with a dagger at the end of it, and a bright red fur cap
with a sham diamond star in front. The poor man will look an awful ass,
and feel it. I wouldn't have let him in for the uniform if I could
possibly have helped it, but that brute Scarsby was as vindictive as a
red Indian and as obstinate as a swine. His wife could do nothing with
him at first. She came to me with tears and said she'd have to give up
the idea of entertaining the king at her party if his coming depended
on Scarsby's withdrawing his action against Madame Ypsilante. I told
her to have another try and promised her he'd come in uniform if she
succeeded. That induced her to tackle her husband again. I don't know
how she managed it, but she did. Scarsby has climbed down and doesn't
even ask for an apology. I advise you to come to the party.
Will Madame Ypsilante be there?
I hope not, said Gorman. I shall persuade her to stay at home if
I can. I don't know whether Scarsby will show up or not; but it's
better to take no risks. She might kick him again.
What I was wondering, said Dane-Latimer, was whether she'd kick
me. She might feel that she ought to get a bit of her own back out of
the plaintiff's solicitor. I'm not a tall man. She could probably reach
my face, and I don't want to have Scarsby mending up my teeth
My impression is, said Gorman, that Mrs. Scarsby would allow
anyone to kick her husband up and down Piccadilly if she thought she'd
be able to entertain royalty afterwards. I don't think she ever got
higher than a Marquis before. By the way, poor Konrad Karl is to have a
throne at the end of her drawing-room, and I'm to present her. You
really ought to come, Dane-Latimer.
XII. A COMPETENT MECHANIC
The car swept across the narrow bridge and round the corner beyond
it. Geoffrey Dane opened the throttle a little and allowed the speed to
increase. The road was new to him, but he had studied his map carefully
and he knew that a long hill, two miles or more of it, lay before him.
His car was highly powered and the engine was running smoothly. He
looked forward to a swift, exhilarating rush from the river valley
behind him to the plateau of the moorlands above. The road was a lonely
one. Since he left a village, three miles behind him, he had met
nothing but one cart and a couple of stray cattle. It was very unlikely
that he would meet any troublesome traffic before he reached the
outskirts of Hamley, the market town six miles beyond the hill and the
moorland. The car swept forward, gathering speed. Geoffrey Dane saw the
hand of his speedometer creep round the dial till it showed forty miles
Then rounding a bend in the road he saw another car motionless in
the very middle of the road. Greoffrey Dane swore abruptly and slowed
down. He was not compelled to stop. He might have passed the
obstructing car by driving with one wheel in the ditch. But he was a
young man with a troublesome conscience, and he was a member of the
Royal Automobile Club. He was bound in honour to render any help he
could to motorists in distress on the high road.
On a stone at the side of the road sat a girl, smoking a cigarette.
She was, apparently, the owner or driver of the motionless car.
Greoffrey Dane stopped.
Anything wrong? he asked.
The girl threw away the cigarette she was smoking and stood up.
Everything, she said.
Geoffrey Dane stopped his engine with a sigh and got out of his car.
He noticed at once that the girl was dishevelled, that her face,
particularly her nose, was smeared with dirt, and that there was a good
deal of mud on her frock. He recognised the signs of a long and useless
struggle with an engine; but he was too well bred to smile. He also
noticed that the girl was pretty, slight of figure, and fair, with
This consoled him a little. Succouring a stranger in distress on a
lonely road towards the close of a winter afternoon is not pleasant,
but it is distinctly less unpleasant if the stranger is a pretty girl.
Do you know anything about motors? said the girl.
To Geoffrey the question was almost insulting. He was a young man
who particularly prided himself on his knowledge of mechanics and his
skill in dealing with engines. Also the girl spoke abruptly, not at all
in the manner of a helpless damsel seeking charitable assistance. But
Geoffrey was a good-humoured young man and the girl was very pretty
indeed. He was prepared to make allowances for a little petulance. No
temper is exactly sunny after a struggle with a refractory engine.
I ought to know something about motors, he said. I'm driving
He looked round as he spoke at his own large and handsome car. The
girl's car in comparison, was insignificant.
It doesn't in the least follow that you know anything about it,
said the girl. I was driving that one. She pointed to the car in the
middle of the road. And I haven't the remotest idea what's wrong.
This time Geoffrey felt that the girl, though pretty, deserved a
snub. He was prepared to help her, at some personal inconvenience, but
he felt that he had a right to expect politeness in return.
I don't think you ought to have drawn up right in the middle of the
road, he said. It's beginning to get dark and if anything came down
the road at all fast there'd be an accident.
I didn't draw up in the middle of the road, said the girl.
Geoffrey looked at her car. It was in the middle, the very middle of
I didn't draw up at all, said the girl. The beastly thing just
stopped there itself. But I don't mind telling you that if I could, I'd
have turned the car across the road so as to block the way altogether.
I'd rather there wasn't any room to pass. I wanted anyone who came
along to stop and help me.
Geoffrey remained polite, which was very much to his credit
I see she's a Ford, he said, and Fords are a bit hard to start
sometimes, especially in cold weather. I'll have a try.
He went to the front of the car and seized the crank handle. He
swung it, jerked, it, pulled at it with his full strength. There was a
slight gurgling noise occasionally, but the engine refused to start.
Geoffrey stood erect and wiped his forehead. The evening was chilly,
but he had no reason to complain of being cold. The girl sat on her
stone at the side of the road and smoked a fresh cigarette.
I don't think you'll do much good that way, she said. I've been
at that for hours.
Geoffrey felt there was, or ought to be a difference between the
efforts of a girl, a slight, rather frail looking girl, and those of a
vigorous young man. He took off his overcoat and tried again, vainly.
Then he opened the throttle wide, and advanced the sparking lever a
If you do that, said the girl, she'll back-fire and break your
armthat is to say if she does anything at all, which she probably
won't. She sprained father's wrist last week. That's how I came to be
driving her to-day.
Geoffrey was aware of the unpleasant effects of a back-fire. But he
took the risk without hesitating. Nothing happened. The car, though
obstinate, was not apparently malicious.
There must be something wrong, he said. Did you try the sparking
I had them all out, said the girl, and cleaned them with a
hairpin and my pocket handkerchief. It isn't worth your while to take
them out again.
Geoffrey fetched a wrench from his own car and began to work on the
I see you don't believe me, said the girl. But I really did clean
them. Just look.
She held up her pocket handkerchief. It was thickly smeared with
soot. She had certainly cleaned something with it. Geoffrey worked away
steadily with his wrench.
And the worst of it is, said the girl, that this is just the sort
of evening on which one simply must blow one's nose. I've had to blow
mine twice since I cleaned the plugs and I expect its awful.
Geoffrey looked up from his work. He had noticed when he first saw
her that her face was very dirty. He knew now where the dirt came from.
He smiled. The girl smiled, too. Her temper was beginning to improve.
Then she sniffed. Geoffrey offered her his pocket handkerchief. She
took it without saying thank you.
The sparking plugs were cleaned very carefully, for the second time.
Then Geoffrey took another turn at the crank handle. He laboured in
vain. The engine did not respond with so much as a gasp.
The next thing I did, said the girl, was to take out the
commutator and clean it. But I don't advise you to do that unless you
really do know something about engines.
It was Geoffrey's turn to feel a little irritated.
I'm a competent mechanic, he said shortly.
All right, said the girl, don't be angry. I'm a competent
mechanic, too. At least I thought I was before this happened.
Perhaps, said Geoffrey, you didn't put the commutator back right
after you took it out. I've known people make mistakes about that.
His suspicion was unjust. The commutator was in its place and the
wire terminals correctly attached. He took it out again, cleaned it,
oiled it, and replaced it. Then he tried the crank handle again. The
engine was entirely unaffected.
The feed pipe must be choked, said Geoffrey decisively.
I didn't try that, said the girl, but you can if you like. I'll
lend you a hairpin. The one I cleaned the plugs with must be lying
It was getting dark, and a search for a lost hairpin would be very
little use. Geoffrey said he would try blowing through the feed pipe
with the pump. The girl, coming to his assistance, struck matches and
held them dangerously near the carburetter while he worked. The
clearing of the feed pipe made no difference at all to the engine. It
was quite dark and freezing hard when the job was finished. Geoffrey,
exhausted and breathless, gave up his final attempt at the starting
Look here, he said, I'm awfully sorry; but I'll have to chuck it.
I've tried everything I can think of. The only thing to do is to send
someone out from the nearest town. If I had a rope, I'd tow you in, but
I haven't. Is there a motor man in Hamley?
Yes, said the girl, there's a man called Jones, who does motors,
Well, said Geoffrey, you get into my car. I'll drive you home,
and thenby the way, where do you live?
In Hamley. My father's the doctor there.
That's all right. I'll drive you home and send out Jones.
The worst of that is, said the girl, that Jones always charges
the most frightful sums for anything he does.
But you can't stay here all night, said Geoffrey. All night!
It'll be all day to-morrow too. As far as I can see it'll be always.
You'll never make that car go.
If father was in any ordinary temper, said the girl, he wouldn't
grouse much about Jones's bill. But just now, on account of what
happened to him
Yes, said Geoffrey. I understand. The sprained wrist makes him
It's not exactly that, said the girl. Anyone might sprain a
wrist. There's no disgrace about that. The real trouble is that the
poor old dear put some stuff on his wrist, to cure it, you know. It
must have been the wrong stuff, for it brought on erysipelas.
I thought you said he was a doctor.
That's just it. He thinks that no one will believe in him any more
now that he's doctored his own wrist all wrong. That's what makes him
depressed. I told him not to mind; but he does.
The best doctors make mistakes sometimes, said Geoffrey.
Everybody does, said the girl. Even competent mechanics aren't
always quite sure about things, are they? Now you see why I don't want
to send out Jones if I can possibly help it.
But you can't possibly help it, said Geoffrey.
He wondered whether he could offer to pay Jones' bill himself. It
would not, he supposed, be very large, and he would have been glad to
pay it to save the girl from trouble. But he did not like to make the
We might, he said, persuade Jones not; to send in his bill till
your father's wrist is better. Anyhow, there's nothing for it but to
get him. We'll just push your car to the side of the road out of the
way and then I'll run you into Hamley.
The car was pushed well over to the side of the road, and left on a
patch of grass. Geoffrey shoved hard at the spokes of one of the back
wheels. The girl pushed, with one hand on a lamp bracket. She steered
with the other, and added a good deal to Geoffrey's labour by turning
the wheel the wrong way occasionally.
The drive to Hamley did not take long; but it was nearly half-past
six before they reached the village street. Jones's shop and motor
garage were shut up for the night; but a kindly bystander told Geoffrey
where the man lived. Unfortunately, the man was not at home. His wife,
who seemed somewhat aggrieved at his absence, gave it as her opinion
that he was likely to be found in the George Inn.
But it isn't no use your going there for him, she said. There's a
Freemason's dinner tonight, and Jones wouldn't leave that, not if you
offered him a ten-pound note.
Geoffrey turned to the girl.
Shall we try? he asked. Is it worth while going after him?
I can't leave the car on the side of the road all night, she said.
If we can't get Jones, I must walk back and try again.
Geoffrey made a heroic resolve.
I'll leave you at home first, he said, and then I'll go and drag
Jones out of that dinner party of his. I'm sure you must be very
But the girl firmly refused to go home without the car. Her plan was
to go back with Jones, if Jones could be persuaded to start, and then
drive home when the car was set right.
Very well, said Geoffrey, let's go and get Jones. We'll all go
back together. I can stop the night in Hamley and go on to-morrow
He rather expected a protest from the girl, a protest ending in warm
thanks for his kindness. He received instead a remark which rather
I daresay, she said, that you'd rather like to see what really is
the matter with the car. It will he so much knowledge gained for you
afterwards. And you do take an interest in mechanics, don't you?
Geoffrey, in the course of his operations on the car, had several
times professed a deep interest in mechanics. He recollected that, just
at first, he had boasted a good deal about his skill and knowledge. He
suspected that the girl was laughing at him. This irritated him, and
when he reached the George Inn he was in no mood to listen patiently to
Jones' refusal to leave the dinner.
Jones did refuse, firmly and decisively. Geoffrey argued with him,
attempted to bribe him, finally swore at him. The girl stood by and
laughed. Jones turned on her truculently.
If young ladies, he said, would stay in their homes, which is the
proper place for them, and not go driving about in motor cars, there'd
be less trouble in the world; and decent men who work hard all day
would be left to eat their dinners in peace.
The girl was entirely unabashed.
If decent men, she said, would think more about their business
and less about their dinners, motors wouldn't break down six miles from
home. You were supposed to have overhauled that car last week, Jones,
and you told father yourself that the engine was in first rate order.
No engine will go, said Jones, if you don't know how to drive it.
Look here, said Geoffrey, hop into my car. I'll have you there in
less than half an hour. We'll bring a rope with us, and if you can't
make the car start at once, we'll tow it home. It won't be a long job.
I'll undertake to have you back here in an hour. Your dinner won't be
cold by that time.
He took Jones by the arm and pulled him towards the door of the inn.
Jones, protesting and muttering, gave way at last. He fetched his hat
and coat, and took a seat in Geoffrey's car.
Geoffrey made good his promise. Once clear of the town, with an
empty road before him, he drove fast and reached the scene of the
breakdown in less than twenty minutes.
Jones was evidently sulky. Without speaking a word to either
Geoffrey or the girl he went straight to the car at the side of the
road. He gave the starting handle a single turn. Then he stopped and
went to the back of the car. He took out a tin of petrol and emptied it
into the tank. Then he gave another jerk to the starting handle. The
engine responded at once with a cheerful rattle. The girl, to
Geoffrey's amazement, laughed loud. He felt abashed and humiliated,
very little inclined to mirth.
I'm awfully sorry, he babbled his apologies. I'm really awfully
sorry. It was extremely stupid of me, but I never thought. Of
course I ought to have looked at the petrol tank first thing.
It was a bit stupid of you, I must say, said the girl,
considering what you said about understanding motors.
Geoffrey felt inclined to remind her that she, too, had boasted some
knowledge of cars and that she had been at fault even more than he had,
and that in fact she ought to have guessed that her petrol had gone. He
was saved from making his retort by Jones. Ignoring the girl
completely, as if she were beneath contempt, Jones spoke to Geoffrey.
I dunno, he said, how you expected the engine to work without
His tone was full of scorn, and Geoffrey felt like a withered
flower. The girl was in no way abashed.
It's just like asking a man to work without his dinner, she said,
but they sometimes do, you know.
Then she turned to Geoffrey.
If you promise faithfully, she said, not to tell father what
happened, you can come and have dinner with us to-night.
It was the only sign of gratitude that the girl had shown, and
Geoffrey's first inclination was to refuse the invitation definitely.
But he caught sight of her face before she spoke. She was standing in
the full glare of one of the lamps. Her eyes were twinkling and very
bright. On her lips was a smile, impudent, provocative, extremely
Geoffrey Dane dined that night with the doctor and his daughter. He
described the breakdown of the motor in the vaguest terms.
XIII. MY NIECE KITTY
I consider it fortunate that Kitty is my niece. She might have been
my daughter and then I should have had a great deal of responsibility
and lived a troublous life. On the other hand if Kitty had not been
related to me in some way I should have missed a pleasant intimacy. I
should probably very seldom see her if she were the daughter of a
casual acquaintance, and when I did see her she would be shy, perhaps,
or pert. I should almost certainly be awkward. I am, I regret to say,
fifty years of age. Kitty is just sixteen. Some kind of relationship is
necessary if there is to be real friendship between an elderly man and
a young girl Uncles, if they did not exist in nature, would have to be
invented for the sake of people like Kitty and myself.
I see Kitty twice a year regularly. She and her mother come to town
at Christmas time for shopping. They stay at my house. In summer I
spend my three weeks holiday with my sister who lives all the year
round in a seaside place which most people regard as a summer resort.
She does this on account of the delicate health of her husband, who
suffers from an obscure nervous disease. If I were Kitty's father I
should probably have a nervous disorder, too.
In December I am master of the situation. I treat Kitty exactly as
an uncle ought to treat a niece. I take her to theatres and picture
houses. I feed her at irregular hours on sweet, unwholesome food. I buy
her presents and allow her to choose them. Kitty, as my guest, behaves
as well as any niece could. She is respectful, obedient, and always
delighted with the entertainments I provide for her. In summerKitty
being then the hostess and I the guestthings are different. She
considers it her duty to amuse me. Her respect for me vanishes. I am
the one who is obedient; but I am not always delighted at the
entertainments she provides. She means well, but she is liable to
forget that a stiff-limbed bachelor of fifty prefers quiet to strenuous
One morning during the second week of my last holiday Kitty came
down late for breakfast. She is often late for breakfast and she never
apologises. I daresay she is right. Most of us are late for breakfast,
when we are late, because we are lazy and stay too long in bed. It is
impossible to think of Kitty being lazy. She always gets up early and
is only late for breakfast because she has had time to find some
enthralling occupation before breakfast is ready. Breakfast and the
rest of the party ought to apologise to her for not being ready sooner.
It is really we who keep her waiting. She was dressed that morning in a
blue cotton frock, at least two inches longer than the frocks she used
to wear last year. If her face had not been as freckled as a turkey's
egg and the skin had not been peeling off her nose with sunburn she
would have looked very pretty. Next year, I suppose, her frocks will be
down to her ankles and she will be taking care of her complexion. Then,
no doubt, she will look very pretty. But she will not look any more
demure than she did that morning.
It is always right, she said, to do good when we can, and to show
kindness to those whose lot in life is less happy than our own.
When Kitty looks particularly demure and utters sentiments of that
kind, as if she were translating one of Dr. Watts' hymns into prose, I
know that there is trouble coming. I did not have to wait long to find
out what was in store.
Claire Lane's aunt, she said, does a great deal of work for the
children of the very poor. That is a noble thing to do.
It is. I have heard of Miss Lane's work. Indeed I give a
subscription every year towards carrying it on.
Claire, Kitty went on, is my greatest friend at school, and she
sometimes helps her aunt. Claire is rather noble too, though not so
noble as Miss Lane.
I am glad to hear, I said, that you have such a nice girl for a
friend. I suppose it was from her you learnt that it was right to show
kindness to those whose lot is less happy than our own.
Kitty referred to a letter which she had brought with her into the
room, and then said:
To-day Claire and her aunt are bringing fifty children down here to
spend the day playing on the beach and paddling in the sea. That will
cost a lot and I expect you to subscribe, Uncle John.
I at once handed Kitty all the money I had in my pocket. She took it
without a word of thanks. It was quite a respectable sum, perhaps
deserving a little gratitude, but I did not grudge it. I felt I was
getting off cheap if I only had to give money. My sister, Kitty's
mother, understood the situation better.
I suppose I must send down bread and jam, she said. Did you say
fifty children, Batty?
Fifty or sixty, said Kitty.
Three pots of jam and ten loaves ought to be enough, said my
And cake, said Kitty. They must have cake. Uncle John, she
turned to me, would you rather cut up bread and jam or walk over to
the village and bring back twenty-five pounds of cake?
I was not going to get off so easily as I hoped. The day was hot,
far too hot for walking, and the village is two miles off; but I made
my choice without hesitation. I greatly prefer heat to stickiness and I
know no stickier job than making bread and jam sandwiches.
If you start at once, said Kitty, you'll be back in time to help
me with the bread and jam.
I regret to say I was back in time to spread the jam out of the last
Miss Lane's party arrived by train at 12 o'clock. By that time I had
discovered that I had not bought freedom with my subscription, nor
earned the title of noble by walking to the village. I was expected to
spend the rest of the day helping to amuse Miss Lane's picnic party.
Kitty and I met them when they arrived.
Miss Lane, the aunt, is a very plump lady with nice white hair. Her
face, when she got out of the train, was glistening with perspiration.
Claire, the niece, is a pretty little girl. She wore a pink frock, but
it was no pinker than her face. Her efforts to show kindness to the
children in the train had been too much for her. She was tired,
bewildered, and helpless. There were fifty-six children, all girls, and
they ranged in ages from about 18 years down to toddling infants. Miss
Lane, the aunt, asked me to count them for her. I suppose she wanted to
make sure that she had not lost any on the way down and that she would
have as many to take home as she had when she started. Left to my own
resources I could not possibly have counted fifty delirious children,
not one of whom stood still for a single instant. Kitty came to my
rescue. She coursed up and down among the children, shouting, pushing,
occasionally slapping in a friendly way, and, at last, corralled the
whole party in a corner between two sheds. I have seen a well-trained
sheep dog perform a similar feat in much the same way. I counted the
flock, with some difficulty even then, and noted the number carefully
in my pocket book. Then there was a wild rush for the beach. Miss Lane
headed it at first, carrying one of the smallest children in her arms
and dragging another by the hand. She was soon overtaken and passed by
Kitty and six lean, long-legged girls, who charged whooping, straight
for the sea. Claire and I followed slowly at the tail of the
procession. I was sorry for her because one of her shoes was beginning
to hurt her. She confided this to me and later on in the day I could
see that the pain was acute. We reached the beach in time to see Kitty
dragging off her shoes and stockings. Eight or ten of the girls had
walked straight into the sea and were splashing about up to their knees
in water. Kitty went after them and dragged them back. She said that if
they wanted to bathe they ought to take their clothes off. Kitty is a
good swimmer, and I think she wanted those children to bathe so as to
have a chance of saving their lives when they began to drown.
Fortunately, Miss Lane discovered what was going on and put a stop to
the bathing. She was breathless but firm. I do not know whether she
shrank from drowning the children or held conventional ideas about the
necessity of bathing dresses for girls. Whatever her reasons were she
absolutely forbade bathing. The day was extraordinarily hot and our
work was most strenuous. We paddled, and I had to wade in several
times, far above the part of my legs to which it was possible to roll
up my trousers. We built elaborate sand castles, and enormous mounds,
which Kitty called redoubts. I was made to plan a series of trenches
similar to those used by the armies in France, and we had a most
exciting battle, during which Kitty compelled me to become a casualty
so that six girls might have the pleasure of dragging me back to a
place of safety. We very nearly had a real casualty afterwards when the
roof of a dug-out fell in and buried two infants. Kitty and I rescued
them, digging frenziedly with our hands. Miss Lane scooped the sand out
of their mouths afterwards with her forefinger, and dried their eyes
when they had recovered sufficiently to cry. We fed the whole party on
buns and lemonade and became sticky from head to foot. We ran races and
had tugs-of-war with a rope made of stockings tied together. It was not
a good rope because it always broke at the most exciting moments, but
that only added to our pleasure; for both teams fell flat on their
backs when the rope gave way, and Miss Lane looked particularly funny
rolling on the sand.
At six o'clock the gardener and the cook, sent by Kitty's mother,
came down from the house carrying a large can of milk and a clothes
basket full of bread and jam and cake. We were all glad to see them.
Even the most active children were becoming exhausted and were willing
to sit down and be fed. I was very nearly done up. Poor Claire was
seated on a stone, nursing her blistered foot. Only Miss Lane and Kitty
had any energy left, and Miss Lane was in an appalling state of heat.
Kitty remained cool, owing perhaps to the fact that she was soaked
through from the waist down, having carried twenty or thirty dripping
infants out of the sea in the course of the day.
My sister's gardener, who carried the milk, is a venerable man with
a long white beard. He is greatly stooped from constant digging and he
suffers from rheumatism in his knees. It was his appearance, no doubt,
which suggested to Kitty the absolutely fiendish idea of an obstacle
race for veterans. The veterans, of course, were Miss Lane, the
gardener, the cook, who was a very fat woman, and myself. Miss Lane
agreed to the proposal at once with apparent pleasure, and the whole
fifty-six children shouted with joy. The gardener, who has known Kitty
since she was born, recognised the uselessness of protest and took his
place beside Miss Lane. The cook said she never ran races and could not
jump. Anyone who had looked at her would have known she was speaking
the truth. But Kitty would take no refusal. She took that cook by the
arm and dragged her to the starting line.
The course, which was arranged by Kitty, was a stiff one. It took us
all over the redoubts, castles, and trenches we had built during the
day and across a tract of particularly soft sand, difficult to walk
over and most exhausting to anyone who tried to run. It finished up
with what Kitty called a water jump, though no one could possibly have
jumped it. It was a wide shallow pool, formed in the sand by the
flowing tide and the only way of getting past it was to wade through.
I felt fairly confident I should win that race. The gardener is ten
years older than I am and very stiff in the joints. The cook plainly
did not mean to try. Miss Lane is far past the age at which women cease
to be active, and was badly handicapped by having to run in a long
skirt. I started at top speed and cleared the first redoubt without
difficulty, well ahead of anyone else. I kept my lead while I
floundered through three trenches, and increased it among the castles
which lay beyond. When I reached the soft sand I ventured to look back.
I was gratified to see that the cook had given up. The gardener was in
difficulties at the second trench, and Miss Lane had fallen. When I saw
her she was sprawling over a sand castle, surrounded by cheering
children. It did not seem likely that she would have strength enough to
get up again or breath to run any more if she did get on her feet. I
felt that I was justified in walking quietly over the soft sand. Beyond
it lay a tract of smooth, hard sand, near the sea, and then the water
jump. My supporters, a number of children who had easily kept pace with
me and were encouraging me with shouts, seemed disappointed when I
dropped to a walk. To please them I broke into a gentle trot when I
reached the hard sand. I still felt perfectly sure that the race was
I was startled out of my confidence by the sound of terrific yells,
just as I stepped cautiously into the water jump. I looked round and
saw Miss Lane. Her hair was flying behind her in a wild tangle. Her
petticoats were gathered well above her knees. She was crossing the
hard sand at a tremendous pace. I saw that my only chance was to
collect my remaining energies for a spurt. Before I had made the
attempt Miss Lane was past me. She jumped a clear eight feet into the
shallow water in which I stood and came down with a splash which nearly
blinded me with spray. I rubbed the salt water out of my eyes and
started forward. It was too late. Miss Lane was ten or twelve yards
ahead of me. She was splashing through the water quicker than I should
have believed possible. She stumbled, and once I thought she was down,
but she did not actually fall until she flung herself, breathless, at
Kitty's feet, at the winning post.
The children shrieked with joy, and Kitty said she was very glad I
had been beaten.
I did not understand at the time why she was glad, but I found out
afterwards. I was stiff and tired that evening but rather proud of
myself. I had done something to be proud of. I had spent a whole day in
showing kindnessI suppose it really was kindnessto those whose lot
on other days is worse than my own; and that, as Kitty says, is a noble
thing to do. I was not, however, left in peace to enjoy my pleasant
mood of self-congratulation. I had just lit my cigar and settled
comfortably in the verandah when Kitty came to me.
I suppose you know, she said, that there was a prize for that
veterans' race this afternoon.
No, I said, I didn't know, but I'm glad to hear it. I hope Miss
Lane will enjoy the prize. She certainly deserves it.
The prize, said Kitty, is
To my surprise she mentioned a sum of money, quite a large sum.
To be paid, said Kitty, by the losers, and to go to the funds
of Miss Lane's Society for giving pleasure to poor children. The
gardener and cook can't pay, of course, being poor themselves. So
you'll have to pay it all.
I haven't the money in my pocket, I said. Will it do if I send it
Kitty graciously agreed to wait till the next day. I hardly expected
that she would.
By the way, Kitty, I said, if I'd won, and I very nearly did,
would Miss Lane have paid me?
Of course not. Why should she? You haven't got a society for
showing kindness to the poor. There'd be no sense in giving you money.
The gardener to whom I was talking next morning, gave it to me as
his opinion that Miss Kitty is a wonderful young lady, I agreed with
him and am glad that she is my niece, not my daughter.
XIV. A ROYAL MARRIAGE
Michael Kane carried His Majesty's mails from Clonmethan to the
Island of Inishrua. He made the voyage twice a week in a big red boat
fitted with a motor engine. He had as his partner a young man called
Peter Gahan. Michael Kane was a fisherman, and had a knowledge of the
ways of the strange tides which race and whirl in the channel between
Inishrua and the mainland. Peter Gahan looked like an engineer. He knew
something about the tides, but what he really understood was the motor
engine. He was a grave and silent young man who read small books about
Socialism. Michael Kane was grey-haired, much battered by the weather
and rich in experience of life. He was garrulous and took a humorous
view of most things, even of Peter Gahan's Socialism.
There are, perhaps, two hundred people living on Inishrua, but they
do not receive many letters. Nor do they write many. Most of them
neither write nor receive any letters at all. A post twice a week is
quite sufficient for their needs, and Michael Kane is not very well
paid for carrying the lean letter bag. But he makes a little money by
taking parcels across to the island. The people of Inishrua grow, catch
or shoot most of the things they want; but they cannot produce their
own tea, tobacco, sugar or flour. Michael Kane takes orders for these
and other things from Mary Nally, who keeps a shop on Inishrua. He buys
them in Clonmethan and conveys them to the island. In this way he earns
something. He also carries passengers and makes a little out of them.
Last summer, because it was stormy and wet, was a very lean season
for Michael Kane. Week after week he made his journeys to Inishrua
without a single passenger. Towards the middle of August he began to
give up hope altogether.
He and Peter sat together one morning on the end of the pier. The
red post boat hung at her moorings outside the little harbour. The day
was windless and the sea smooth save for the ocean swell which made
shorewards in a long procession of round-topped waves. It was a day
which might have tempted even a timid tourist to visit the island. But
there was no sign of anyone approaching the pier.
I'm thinking, said Michael Kane, that we may as well be starting.
There'll be no one coming with us the day.
But he was mistaken. A passenger, an eager-looking young woman, was
hurrying towards the pier while they were making up their minds to
Miss Ivy Clarence had prepared herself for a voyage which seemed to
her something of an adventure. She wore a tight-fitting knitted cap, a
long, belted, waterproof coat, meant originally to be worn by a soldier
in the trenches in France. She had a thick muffler round her neck. She
carried a rug, a packet of sandwiches, a small handbag and an umbrella,
of all possible accoutrements the least likely to be useful in an open
boat. But though she carried an umbrella, Miss Clarence did not look
like a fool. She might know nothing about boats and the way to travel
in them, but she had a bright, intelligent face and a self-confident
decision of manner. She was by profession a journalist, and had
conceived the idea of visiting Ireland and writing articles about that
unfortunate country. Being an intelligent journalist she knew that
articles about the state of Ireland are overdone and very tiresome.
Nobody, especially during the holiday season, wants to be bored with
Irish politics. But for bright, cheery descriptions of Irish life and
customs, as for similar descriptions of the ways of other strange
peoples, there is always a market. Miss Clarence determined to exploit
it. She planned to visit five or six of the larger islands off the
Irish coast. There, if anywhere, quaint customs, picturesque
superstitions and primitive ways of living might still be found.
Michael greeted her as if she had been an honoured guest. He was
determined to make the trip as pleasant as he could for anyone who was
wise enough to leave the tennis-courts and the golf-links.
It's a grand day for seeing Inishrua, he said. Not a better day
there's been the whole summer up to now. And why wouldn't it be fine?
It would be a queer day that wouldn't when a young lady like yourself
is wanting to go on the sea.
This was the kind of speech, flattering, exaggerated, slightly
surprising, which Michael Kane was accustomed to make to his
passengers. Miss Clarence did not know that something of the same sort
was said to every lady, young or old, who ventured into Michael's boat.
She was greatly pleased and made a mental note of the words.
Michael Kane and Peter Gahan went over to a dirty and dilapidated
boat which lay on the slip. They seized her by the gunwale, raised her
and laid her keel on a roller. They dragged her across the slip and
launched her, bow first, with a loud splash.
Step easy now, miss, said Michael, and lean on my shoulder. Give
the young lady your hand, Peter. Can't you see the stones is slippy?
Peter was quite convinced that all members of the bourgeois class
ought to be allowed, for the good of society, to break their legs on
slippery rocks. But he was naturally a courteous man. He offered Miss
Clarence an oily hand and she got safely into the boat.
The engine throbbed and the screw under the rudder revolved slowly.
The boat slid forward, gathering speed, and headed out to sea for
Michael Kane began to talk. Like a pianist who strikes the notes of
his instrument tentatively, feeling about for the right key, he touched
on one subject after another, confident that in the end he would light
on something really interesting to his passenger. Michael Kane was
happy in this, that he could talk equally well on all subjects. He
began with the coast scenery, politics and religion, treating these
thorny topics with such detachment that no one could have guessed what
party or what church he belonged to. Miss Clarence was no more than
moderately interested. He passed on to the Islanders of Inishrua, and
discovered that he had at last reached the topic he was seeking. Miss
Clarence listened eagerly to all he said. She even asked questions,
after the manner of intelligent journalists.
If it's the island people you want to see, miss, he said, it's
well you came this year. There'll be none of them left soon. They're
dying out, so they are.
Miss Clarence thought of a hardy race of men wringing bare
subsistence from a niggardly soil, battered by storms, succumbing
slowly to the impossible conditions of their island. She began to see
her way to an article of a pathetic kind.
It's sleep that's killing them off, said Michael Kane.
Miss Clarence was startled. She had heard of sleeping sickness, but
had always supposed it to be a tropical disease. It surprised her to
hear that it was ravaging an island like Inishrua.
Men or women, it's the same, said Michael. They'll sleep all
night and they'll sleep the most of the day. Not a tap of work will be
done on the island, summer or winter.
But, said Miss Clarence, how do they live?
They'll not live long, said Michael. Amn't I telling you that
they're dying out? It's the sleep that's killing them.
Miss Clarence drew a large notebook and a pencil from her bag.
Michael was greatly pleased. He went on to tell her that the Inishrua
islanders had become enormously rich during the war. Wrecked ships had
drifted on to their coasts in dozens. They had gathered in immense
stores of oil, petrol, cotton, valuable wood and miscellaneous
merchandise of every kind. There was no need for them to work any more.
Digging, ploughing, fishing, toil of every kind was unnecessary. All
they had to do was eat and sleep, waking up now and then for an hour or
two to sell their spoils to eager buyers who came to them from England.
Michael could have gone on talking about the immense riches of the
islanders. He would have liked to enlarge upon the evil consequences of
having no work to do, the inevitable extinction which waits for those
who merely sleep. But he was conscious that Peter Gahan was becoming
uneasy. As a good socialist, Peter knew that work is an unnecessary
evil, and that men will never be healthy or happy until they escape
from the tyranny of toil He was not likely to listen patiently to
Michael's doctrine that a race of sleepers is doomed to extinction. At
any moment he might burst into the conversation argumentatively. And
Michael Kane did not want that. He liked to do all the talking himself.
He switched off the decay of the islanders and started a new subject
which he hoped would be equally interesting to Miss Clarence.
It's a lucky day you have for visiting the island, he said. But
sure you know that yourself, and there's no need for me to be telling
Beyond the fact that the day was moderately fine, Miss Clarence did
not know that there was anything specially lucky about it. She looked
enquiringly at Michael Kane.
It's the day of the King's wedding, said Michael.
To Miss Clarence the King suggested his Majesty George V. But he
married some time ago, and she did not see why the islanders should
celebrate an event of which most people have forgotten the date. She
cast round in her mind for another monarch likely to be married; but
she could not think of any. There are not, indeed, very many kings left
in the world now. Peter Gahan gave a vicious dab at his engine with his
oil-can, and then emerged feet first from the shelter of the fore deck.
This talk about kings irritated him.
It's the publican down by the harbour Michael Kane's speaking
about, he said. King, indeed! What is he, only an old man who's a
deal too fat!
He may be fat, said Michael; but if he is, he's not the first fat
man to get married. And he's a king right enough. There's always been a
king on Inishrua, the same as in England.
Miss Clarence was awareshe had read the thing somewherethat the
remoter and less civilised islands off the Irish Coast are ruled by
chieftains to whom their people give the title of King.
The woman he's marrying, said Michael, is one by the name of Mary
Nally, the same that keeps the post-office and sells tobacco and tea
If he's marrying her to-day, said Peter Gahan, it's the first I
heard of it.
That may be, said Michael, but if you was to read less you'd
maybe hear more. You'd hardly believe, he turned to Miss Clarence with
a smileyou'd hardly believe the time that young fellow wastes
reading books and the like. There isn't a day passes without he'd be
reading something, good or bad.
Peter Gahan, thoroughly disgusted, crept under the fore deck again
and squirted drops of oil out of his can.
Miss Clarence ought to have been interested in the fact that the
young boatman was fond of reading. His tastes in literature and his
eagerness for knowledge and culture would have provided excellent
matter for an article. But the prospect of a royal marriage on Inishrua
excited her, and she had no curiosity left for Peter Gahan and his
books. She asked a string of eager questions about the festivities.
Michael was perfectly willing to supply her with information; indeed,
the voyage was not long enough for all her questions and his answers.
Before the subject was exhausted the boat swung round a rocky point
into the bay where the Inishrua harbour lies.
You see the white cottage with the double gable, Miss, said
Michael. Well, it's there Mary Nally lives. And that young lad
crossing the field is her brother coming down for the post-bag. The
yellow house with the slates on it is where the king lives. It's the
only slated house they have on the island. God help them!
Peter Gahan slowed and then stopped his engine. The boat slipped
along a grey stone pier. Michael stepped ashore and made fast a couple
of ropes. Then he gave his hand to Miss Clarence and helped her to
If you're thinking of taking a walk through the island, Miss, he
said, you'll have time enough. There's no hurry in the world about
starting home. Two hours or three will be all the same to us.
Michael Kane was in no hurry. Nor was Peter Gahan, who had taken a
pamphlet from his pocket and settled himself on the edge of the pier
with his feet dangling over the water. But Miss Clarence felt that she
had not a moment to lose. She did not want to miss a single detail of
the wedding festivities. She stood for an instant uncertain whether she
should go first to the yellow, slated house of the bridegroom or cross
the field before her to the double-gabled cottage where the bride
lived. She decided to go to the cottage. In any ordinary wedding the
bride's house is the scene of most activity, and no doubt the same rule
holds good in the case of royal marriages.
The door of the cottage stood open, and Miss Clarence stepped into a
tiny shop. It was the smallest shop she had ever seen, but it was
crammed from ceiling to floor with goods.
Behind the counter a woman of about thirty years of age sat on a low
stool. She was knitting quietly, and showed no sign whatever of the
excitement which usually fills a house on the day of a wedding. She
looked up when Miss Clarence entered the shop. Then she rose and laid
aside her knitting. She had clear, grey eyes, an unemotional,
self-confident face, and a lean figure.
I came to see Miss Mary Nally, said Miss Clarence. Perhaps if she
isn't too busy I could have a chat with her.
Mary Nally's my name, said the young woman quietly.
Miss Clarence was surprised at the calm and self-possession of the
woman before her. She had, in the early days of her career as a
journalist, seen many brides. She had never seen one quite so cool as
Mary Nally. And this woman was going to marry a king! Miss Clarence,
startled out of her own self-control, blurted out more than she meant
Butbut aren't you going to be married? she said.
Mary Nally smiled without a sign of embarrassment.
Maybe I am, she said, some day.
To-day, said Miss Clarence.
Mary Nally, pulling aside a curtain of pendent shirts, looked out
through the window of the little shop. She knew that the post boat had
arrived at the pier and that her visitor, a stranger on the island,
must have come in her. She wanted to make sure that Michael Kane was on
I suppose now, she said, that it was Michael Kane told you that.
And it's likely old Andrew that he said I was marrying.
He said you were going to marry the King of the island, said Miss
Well, said Mary Nally, that would be old Andrew.
But isn't it true? said Miss Clarence.
A horrible suspicion seized her. Michael Kane might have been making
a fool of her.
Michael Kane would tell you lies as quick as look at you, she
said; but maybe it wasn't lies he was telling this time. Come along
now and we'll see.
She lifted the flap of the counter behind which she sat and passed
into the outer part of the shop. She took Miss Clarence by the arm and
they went together through the door. Miss Clarence expected to be led
down to the pier. It seemed to her plain that Mary Nally must want to
find out from Michael whether he had told this outrageous story or not.
She was quite willing to face the old boatman. Mary Nally would have
something bitter to say to him. She herself would say something rather
more bitter and would say it more fiercely.
Mary turned to the right and walked towards the yellow house with
the slate roof. She entered it, pulling Miss Clarence after her.
An oldish man, very fat, but healthy looking and strong, sat in an
armchair near the window of the room they entered. Round the walls were
barrels of porter. On the shelves were bottles of whisky. In the middle
of the floor, piled one on top of the other, were three cases full of
Andrew, said Mary Nally, there's a young lady here says that you
and me is going to be married.
I've been saying as much myself this five years, said Andrew.
Ever since your mother died. And I don't know how it is we never done
It might be, said Mary, because you never asked me.
Sure, where was the use of my asking you, said Andrew, when you
knew as well as myself and everyone else that it was to be?
Anyway, said Mary, the young lady says we're doing it, and,
what's more, we're doing it to-day. What have you to say to that now,
Andrew chuckled in a good-humoured and tolerant way.
What I'd say to that, Mary, he said, is that it would be a pity
to disappoint the young lady if her heart's set on it.
It's not my heart that's set on it, said Miss Clarence
indignantly. I don't care if you never get married. It's your own
hearts, both of them, that ought to be set on it.
As a journalist of some years' experience she had, of course,
outgrown all sentiment. But she was shocked by the cool indifference of
these lovers who were prepared to marry merely to oblige a stranger
whom they had never seen before and were not likely to see again. But
Mary Nally did not seem to feel that there was any want of proper
ardour in Andrew's way of settling the date of their wedding.
If you don't get up out of your chair, she said, and be off to
Father McFadden to tell him what's wanted, it'll never be done either
to-day or any other day.
Andrew roused himself with a sigh. He took his hat from a peg, and a
stout walking-stick from behind a porter barrel. Then, politely but
firmly, he put the two women out of the house and locked the door
behind them. He was ready to marry Mary Nallyand her shop. He was not
prepared to trust her among his porter barrels and his whisky bottles
until the ceremony was actually completed.
The law requires that a certain decorous pause shall be made before
the celebration of a marriage. Papers must be signed or banns published
in church. But Father McFadden had lived so long on Inishrua that he
had lost respect for law and perhaps forgotten what the law was.
Besides, Andrew was King of the island by right of popular assent, and
what is the use of being a king if you cannot override a tiresome law?
The marriage took place that afternoon, and Miss Clarence was present,
acting as a kind of bridesmaid.
No sheep or heifers were killed, and no inordinate quantity of
porter was drunk. There was, indeed, no special festivity on the
island, and the other inhabitants took very little notice of what was
happening. They were perhaps, as Michael Kane said, too sleepy to be
stirred with excitement. But in spite of the general apathy, Miss
Clarence was fairly well satisfied with her experience. She felt that
she had a really novel subject for the first of her articles on the
life and customs of the Irish islanders.
The one thing that vexed her was the thought that Michael Kane had
been laughing at her while he talked to her on the way out to the
island. On the way home she spoke to him severely.
You've no right, she said, to tell a pack of lies to a stranger
who happens to be a passenger in your boat.
Lies! said Michael. What lie was in it? Didn't I say they'd be
married to-day, and they were?
Miss Clarence might have retorted that no sheep or heifers had been
killed and very little porter drunk, but she preferred to leave these
details aside and stick to her main point.
But they didn't mean to be married, she said, and you told
Begging your pardon, Miss, said Michael, but they did mean it.
Old Andrew has been meaning it ever since Mrs. Nally died and left Mary
with the shop. And Mary was willing enough to go with him any day he
asked her. It's what I was telling you at the first go off. Them island
people is dying out for the want of being able to keep from going to
sleep. You seen yourself the way it was. Them ones never would have
been married at all only for your going to Inishrua and waking them up.
It's thankful to you they ought to be.
He appealed to Peter Gahan, who was crouching beside his engine
under the fore-deck.
Oughtn't they to be thankful to the young lady, Peter, he said,
seeing they'd never have been married only for her?
Peter Gahan looked out from his shelter and scowled. According to
the teaching of the most advanced Socialists the marriage tie is not a
blessing but a curse.
XV. AUNT NELL
Mrs. MacDermott splashed her way across the yard towards the stable.
It was raining, softly and persistently. The mud lay deep. There were
pools of water here and there. Mrs. MacDermott neither paused nor
picked her steps. There was no reason why she should. The rain could
not damage the tweed cap on her head. Her complexion, brilliant as the
complexions of Irish women often are, was not of the kind that washes
off. Her rough grey skirt, on which rain-drops glistened, came down no
further than her knees. On her feet were a pair of rubber boots which
reached up to the hem of her skirt, perhaps further. She was
comfortably indifferent to rain and mud.
If you reckon the years since she was born, Mrs. MacDermott was
nearly forty. But that is no true way of estimating the age of man or
woman. Seen, not in the dusk with the light behind her, but in broad
daylight on horseback, she was little more than thirty. Such is the
reward of living an outdoor life in the damp climate of Connaught. And
her heart was as young as her face and figure. She had known no serious
troubles and very few of the minor cares of life. Her husband, a man
twenty-five years older than she was, died after two years of married
life, leaving her a very comfortable fortune. Nell MacDermottthe
whole country called her Nellhunted three days a week every winter.
Why shouldn't she be young? John Gafferty, the groom, used to say.
Hasn't she five good horses and the full of her skin of meat and
drink? The likes of her never get old.
Johnny Gafferty was rubbing down a tall bay mare when Mrs.
MacDermott opened the stable door and entered the loose box.
Johnny, she said, you'll put the cob in the governess cart this
afternoon and have him round at three o'clock. I'm going up to the
station to meet my nephew. I've had a letter from his father to say
he'll be here to-day.
Johnny Gafferty, though he had been eight years in Mrs. MacDermott's
service, had never before heard of her nephew.
It could be, he said, cautiously, that the captain will be
bringing a horse with him, or maybe two.
He felt that a title of some sort was due to the nephew of a lady
like Mrs. MacDennott. The assumption that he would have a horse or two
with him was natural. All Mrs. MacDermott's friends hunted.
He's not a captain, said Mrs. MacDennott, and he's bringing no
horses and he doesn't hunt. What's more, Johnny, he doesn't even ride,
couldn't sit on the back of a donkey. So his father says, anyway.
Glory be to God! said Johnny, and what sort of a gentleman will
he be at all?
He's a poet, said Mrs. MacDennott.
Johnny felt that he had perhaps gone beyond the limits of respectful
criticism in expressing his first astonishment at the amazing news that
Mrs. MacDermott's nephew could not ride.
Well, he said, there's worse things than poetry in the world.
Very few sillier things, said Mrs. MacDermott. But that's not the
worse there is about him, Johnny. His health is completely broken down.
That's why he's coming here. Nerve strain, they call it.
That's what they would call it, said Johnny sympathetically, when
it's a high-up gentleman like a nephew of your own. And it's hard to
blame him. There's many a man does be a bit foolish without meaning any
great harm by it.
To be a bit foolish is a kindly, West of Ireland phrase which
means to drink heavily.
It's not that, said Mrs. MacDermott. I don't believe from what
I've heard of him that the man has even that much in him. It's just
what his father says, poetry and nerves. And he's coming here for the
good of his health. It's Mr. Bertram they call him, Mr. Bertram
Mrs. MacDermott walked up and down the platform waiting for the
arrival of her nephew's train. She was dressed in a very becoming pale
blue tweed and had wrapped a silk muffler of a rather brighter blue
round her neck. Her brown shoes, though strong, were very well made and
neat. Between them and her skirt was a considerable stretch of knitted
stocking, blue like the tweed. Her ankles were singularly well-formed
and comely. The afternoon had turned out to be fine and she had taken
some trouble about her dress before setting out to meet a strange
nephew whom she had not seen since he was five years old. She might
have taken more trouble still if the nephew had been anything more
exciting than a nerve-shattered poet.
The train steamed in at last. Only one passenger got out of a
first-class carriage. Mrs. MacDermott looked at him in doubt. He was
not in the least the sort of man she expected to see. Poets, so she
understood, have long hair and sallow, clean-shaven faces. This young
man's head was closely-cropped and he had a fair moustache. He was
smartly dressed in well-fitting clothes. Poets are, or ought to be,
sloppy in their attire. Also, judged by the colour of his cheeks and
his vigorous step, this man was in perfect health. Mrs. MacDermott
approached him with some hesitation. The young man was standing in the
middle of the platform looking around. His eyes rested on Mrs.
MacDermott for a moment, but passed from her again. He was expecting
someone whom he did not see.
Are you Bertram Connell, by any chance? asked Mrs. MacDermott.
That's me, said the young man, and I'm expecting an aunt to meet
me. I say, are you a cousin? I didn't know I had a cousin.
The mistake was an excusable one. Mrs. MacDermott looked very young
and pretty in her blue tweed. She appreciated the compliment paid her
all the more because it was obviously sincere.
You haven't any cousins, she said. Not on your father's side,
anyway. I'm your aunt.
Aunt Nell! he said, plainly startled by the information. Great
Scott! and I thought
He paused and looked at Mrs. MacDermott with genuine surprise. Then
he recovered his self-possession. He put his arm round her neck and
kissed her heartily, first on one cheek, then on the other.
Aunts are kissed by their nephews every day as a matter of course.
They expect it. Mrs. MacDermott had not thought about the matter
beforehand. If she had she would have taken it for granted that Bertram
would kiss her, occasionally, uncomfortably and without conviction. The
kisses she actually received embarrassed her. She even blushed a little
and was annoyed with herself for blushing.
There doesn't seem to be much the matter with your nerve, she
Bertram became suddenly grave.
My nerves are in a rotten state, he said. The doctorspecialist,
you know, tip-top mansaid the only thing for me was life in the
country, fresh air, birds, flowers, new milk, all that sort of thing.
Your father wrote all that to me, said Mrs. MacDermott.
Poor old dad, said Bertram, he's horribly upset about it.
Mrs. MacDermott was further puzzled about her nephew's nervous
breakdown when she suggested about 7 o'clock that it was time to dress
for dinner. Bertram who had been talking cheerfully and smoking a good
deal, put his arm round her waist and ran her upstairs.
Jolly thing to have an aunt like you, he said.
Mrs. MacDermott was slightly out of breath and angry with herself
for blushing again. At bedtime she refused a good-night kiss with some
dignity. Bertram protested.
Oh, I say, Aunt Nell, that's all rot, you know. An aunt is just one
of the people you do kiss, night and morning.
No, you don't, she said, and anyway you won't get the chance
to-morrow morning. I shall be off early. It's a hunting day.
Can't I get a horse somewhere? said Bertram.
Mrs. MacDermott looked at him in astonishment.
Your father told me, she said, that you couldn't ride and had
never been on a horse in your life.
Did he say that? The poor dad! I suppose he was afraid I'd break my
If you're suffering from nervous breakdown
I am. Frightfully. That's why they sent me here.
Then you shouldn't hunt, said Mrs. MacDermott. You should sit
quietly in the library and write poetry. That reminds me, the rector is
coming to dinner to-night. I thought you'd like to meet him.
Why? Is he a sporting old bird?
Not in the least; but he's the only man about this country who
knows anything about poetry. That's why I asked him.
Johnny Gafferty made a report to Mrs. MacDermott when she returned
from hunting which surprised her a good deal.
The young gentleman, ma'am, he said, was round in the stable this
morning, shortly after you leaving. And nothing would do him only for
me to saddle the bay for him.
Did you do it?
What else could I do, said Gafferty, when his heart was set on
I suppose he's broken his own neck and the mare's knees, said Mrs.
He has not then. Neither the one nor the other. I don't know how
he'd do if you faced him with a stone wall, but the way he took the bay
over the fence at the end of the paddock was as neat as ever I seen.
You couldn't have done it better yourself, ma'am.
He can ride, then?
Ride! said Gafferty. Is it ride? If his poetry is no worse nor
his riding he'll make money by it yet.
The dinner with the rector was not an entire success. The clergyman,
warned beforehand that he was to entertain a well-known poet, had
prepared himself by reading several books of Wordsworth's Excursion.
Bertram shied at the name of Wordsworth and insisted on hearing from
his aunt a detailed account of the day's run. This puzzled Mrs.
MacDermott a little; but she hit upon an explanation which satisfied
her. The rector was enthusiastic in his admiration of Wordsworth.
Bertram, a poet himself, evidently suffered from professional jealousy.
Mrs. MacDermott, who had looked forward to her nephew's visit with
dread, began to enjoy it Bertram was a cheerful young man with an easy
flow of slangy conversation. His tastes were very much the same as Mrs.
MacDermott's own. He smoked, and drank whisky and soda in moderate
quantities. He behaved in all respects like a normal man, showing no
signs of the nervousness which goes with the artistic temperament. His
politeness to her and the trouble he took, about her comfort in small
matters were very pleasant. He had large handsome blue eyes, and Mrs.
MacDermott liked the way he looked at her. His gaze expressed a frank
admiration which was curiously agreeable.
A week after his arrival Mrs. MacDermott paid a high compliment to
her nephew. She promised to mount him on the bay mare and take him out
hunting. She had satisfied herself that Johnny Gafferty was not
mistaken and that the young man really could ride. Bertram, excited and
in high good humour, succeeded, before she had time to protest, in
giving her a hearty kiss of gratitude.
The morning of the hunt was warm and moist. The meet was in one of
the most favourable places in the country. Mrs. MacDermott, drawing on
her gloves in the hall before starting, noted with gratification that
her nephew's breeches were well-cut and his stock neatly fastened.
Johnny Gafferty could be heard outside the door speaking to the horses
which he held ready.
A telegraph boy arrived on a bicycle. He handed the usual orange
envelope to Mrs. Mac-Dermott. She tore it open impatiently and glanced
at the message inside. She gave an exclamation of surprise and read the
message through slowly and carefully. Then, without a word, she handed
it to her nephew.
Very sorry, the telegram ran, only to-day discovered that Bertram
had not gone to you as arranged. He is in a condition of complete
prostration. Cannot start now. Connell.
It's from my brother, said Mrs. MacDermott, but what on earth
does it mean? You're here all right, aren't you?
Yes, he said, I'm here.
He laid a good deal of emphasis on the I. Mrs. MacDermott looked
at him with sudden suspicion.
I've had a top-hole time, he said. What an utterly incompetent
rotter Connell is! He had nothing on earth to do but lie low. His
father couldn't have found out.
Mrs. MacDermott walked over to the door and addressed Gafferty.
Johnny, she said, the horses won't be wanted to-day. She turned
to the young man who stood beside her. Now, she said, come into the
library and explain what all this means.
Oh, I say, Aunt Nell, he said, don't let's miss the day. I'll
explain the whole thing to you in the evening after dinner.
You'll explain it now, if you can.
She led the way into the library.
It's quite simple really, he said. Bertram Connell, your nephew,
though a poet and all that, is rather an ass.
Are you Bertram Connell, or are you not? said Mrs. MacDermott.
Oh Lord, no. I'm not that sort of fellow at all. I couldn't write a
line of poetry to save my life. He'syou simply can't imagine how
frightfully brainy he is. All the same I rather like him. He was my fag
at school and we were up together at Cambridge. I've more or less kept
up with him ever since. He's more like a girl than a man, you know. I
daresay that's why I liked him. Then he crocked up, nerves and that
sort of thing. And they said he must come over here. He didn't like the
notion a bit. I was in London just then on leave, and he told me how he
hated the idea.
So did I, said Mrs. MacDermott.
I said that he was a silly ass and that if I had the chance of a
month in the west of Ireland in a sporting sort of househe told me
you hunted a lotI'd simply jump at it. But the poor fellow was
frightfully sick at the prospect, said he was sure he wouldn't get on
with you, and that you'd simply hate him. He had a book of poetry just
coming out and he was hoping to get a play of his taken on, a play
about fairies. I give you my word he was very near crying, so, after a
lot of talking, we hit on the idea of my coming here. He was to lie low
in London so that his father wouldn't find him.
You neither of you thought about me, apparently, said Mrs.
Oh, yes we did. We thought as you hadn't seen him since he was a
child that you wouldn't know him. And of course we thought you'd be
frightfully old. There didn't seem to be much harm in it.
And youyou came here and called me Aunt Nell.
You're far the nicest aunt I've ever seen or even imagined.
And you actually had the cheek to
Mrs. MacDermott stopped abruptly and blushed. She was thinking of
the kisses. His thoughts followed hers, though she did not complete the
Only the first day, he said. You wouldn't let me afterwards.
Except once, and you didn't really let me then. I just did it. I give
you my word I couldn't help it. You looked so jolly. No fellow could
have helped it. I believe Bertram would have done the same, though he
is a poet.
And now, said Mrs. MacDermott, before you go
Must I go
Out of this house and back to London today, said Mrs. MacDermott.
But before you go I'd rather like to know who you are, since you're
not Bertram Connell.
My name is Maitland, Robert Maitland, but they generally call me
Bob. I'm in the 30th Lancers. I say, it was rather funny your thinking
I couldn't ride and turning on that old parson to talk poetry to me.
Mrs. MacDermott allowed herself to smile.
The matter was really settled that day before Bob Maitland left for
London; but it was a week later when Mrs. MacDermott announced her
decision to her brother.
There's no fool like an old fool, she wrote, and at my age I
ought to have more sense. But I took to Bob the moment I saw him, and
if he makes as good a husband as he did a nephew we'll get on together
all rightthough he is a few years younger than I am.